Cover If Im Being Honest: A pink wall, a woman leaning against it in summery clothes

About the Book

Title: If I’m Being Honest
Published: 2019
Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Cover Story: Just A’ight For Me, Dawg
BFF Charm: Platinum
Talky Talk: Dropping Truth Bombs
Bonus Factors: Shakespeare, Rocky Horror Picture Show
Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award For Awful Parenting
Relationship Status: Summer Fling, Maybe More

Cover Story: Just A’ight For Me, Dawg

It’s not all bad—the bright background and the palm trees say summer fun and LA, but the model doesn’t bring to mind Cameron, who is often out for a run in her athletic gear. I suppose she may wear something similar to this at school, but not with that hat.

The Deal:

Everyone at school knows Cameron Bright will call it how she sees it, even if you may not want to hear such, ah, brutal honesty. She holds a certain cache in an elite private school where she rubs elbows with the rich and famous—seriously, her BFFs are a makeup tutorial YouTube mogul and a budding film star—and she’d be the first to tell you it’s only because she’s pretty and inspires a healthy level of fear in those less confident. But when she shows her ass by insulting a drunk girl at a party in front of her crush, Andrew, he promptly calls her on her lack of compassion and ditches her.

As luck would have it, her English class is doing a whole unit on Shakepeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, and when Andrew makes some well-placed comments about Katherine’s reversal from bitch to submissive wife, Cameron sees her path. She’ll tame herself, make amends with the people she’s wronged—like Paige (aforementioned drunk girl) and Paige’s brother, Brendan (who has had to live with the nickname Barfy Brendan for years, thanks to Cameron)—and show Andrew that a leopard can change its spots. 

BFF Charm: Platinum

BFF platinum charm

I surprised myself when I sat down to think about what kind of charm Cameron would get from me that my gut said, platinum all the way! I definitely don’t relate to her in a “she’s just like me!” way, but that could be part of why I liked her so much—she says the things that (sometimes) need to be said. At the start, yes, Cameron is careless with her words and doesn’t think through what the cold hard “truth” (which can sometimes be subjective when it’s about a person and not a fact) could do to a person. But even though she starts her self-reflection for a boy, she quickly realizes how much she needs positive growth in her entire life, and then she goes ahead and DOES it. She dives headlong into those nerdy things she knows nothing about. She recognizes her parents have stunted her emotional maturity, and she’s working on ways to fix that. While a self-proclaimed Slytherin (one of the few “nerd” references she gets), Cam’s secretly got a heart of gold under all that toughness.

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Cameron has turned down guy after guy at her school for the last two years, but now that Andrew is on the soccer team and showing initiative, she’s ready to take the next step. But her self-improvement project means she’s also spending more time around Brendan, who won’t accept her apology at face value. I fell hard and fast for Brendan, who was kind despite his distrust, wants to win an internship with video game developer, Naughty Dog—release The Last of Us II already!—and is a self-proclaimed nerd who would rather eat lunch in the robotics lab than the lunchroom. I was feeling all the tingles about how this relationship went down.

Talky Talk: Dropping Truth Bombs

This book is sort of like a representation of Cameron Bright herself. Beneath a candy-pink cover, I found hidden depths. While it’s still light enough to be a good summer read, I found myself more emotionally invested in Cameron’s glow up than I anticipated. Siegemund-Broka and Wibberley brought together an airy contemporary style peppered with charismatic characters, strong emotional beats, and a dash of sarcasm (that you must know by now is my catnip).

Bonus Factor: Shakespeare

Bust of William Shakespeare

English professors all over the world should be happy about how many YA books Shakespeare has inspired over the years. If I’m Being Honest isn’t strictly a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, and I am honestly fine with that, because—what the crap with this play? I totally thought I’d read it at some point during college, but apparently I simply internalized the fact that we’re told 10 Things I Hate About You is a Shrew retelling and made some conjectures from there. It (honestly) sounds kind of horrible, and I think this may be one of those cases where the “remakes” surpass the original. But I digress. THIS book is not a replica of either work mentioned, but it manages to take the themes of this particular Shakespearean “comedy” and make them updated and relatable.

Bonus Factor: Rocky Horror Picture Show

Characters from Rocky Horror Picture Show

As Cameron begins to get to know Paige, she is introduced to Paige’s group of friends who hang out at The Depths of Mordor*, a sci-fi/fantasy bookstore where Hannah works. Hannah is obsessed with the movie Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I think you know where this is going. I personally have never been to a live showing of Rocky Horror (I don’t think the half-hour, family-friendly show at Universal Studios counts) but it sounds SO fun and this book makes me want to remedy that immediately.

*Please tell me someone, somewhere, has made this a real bookstore.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award For Awful Parenting

Evil Dan Scott from One Tree Hill

Cameron’s mom is a failed actress who got pregnant by a rich businessman who wants nothing to do with either of them except pay his bare minimum child support. He sends enough money for rent and for Cameron’s private school, so Cameron’s mom is often found lounging on the couch instead of searching for real work. Baby girl is basically struggling to raise herself and undo all the damage two self-absorbed assholes have done to her.

Relationship Status: Summer Fling, Maybe More

We got hot and heavy pretty quickly, Book. And why wait? You are snarky and attractive, and summer only lasts so long. But even though I expected that we would only spend our time making out, you’re actually a really good conversationalist. Should I let you call me after summer ends? Kiss me again while I think it through.

Literary Matchmaking

If I’m Being Honest

If you haven’t, like me, picked up this writing duo’s first book (I plan to remedy this ASAP), then check out Always Never Yours.

If I’m Being Honest

Emma Mills always bring the teen comedy vibe to her contemporary novels, so if you’re looking for a fun summer read look no further than Foolish Hearts.

If I’m Being Honest

Did you want your Shakespeare with more pop culture/nerd references from characters who know their stuff? Then check out Lily Anderson’s The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Viking Books. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. If I’m Being Honest is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.