Jessica Chai’s life is a mess. She’s the typical invisible girl at high school, a loner, and her relationship with her mom consists of them awkwardly spending money together. Until one day, the popular cheerleaders force her to donate her hair, and she’s invited to a party. Jessica gets into an accident, and the result of her accident impacts the lives of four different individuals.
This novel had such a unique idea, but it was really poorly executed. Throughout the entire novel, I kept hoping that it would live up to its potential. I kept hoping that it would get better.
I guess this novel and I got started on the wrong foot. I felt like the beginning was completely unnecessary, and it was probably violating all sorts of human rights. The cheerleaders (or Skirts, as Jessica calls them, but they’re the clichéd mean girls of the story) actually, physically, cut Jessica’s hair from her head while Jess is at her locker. First of all, why didn’t she report this to a teacher instead of covering up by saying she donated her hair to charity? Second, how did the cheerleaders manage to shear the entirety of Jessica’s hair in one snip?
The beginning is just an indicator of the lack-of-subtlety and believability that’s prevalent in the rest novel. All the relationships between the characters in this novel lacked a certain sense of reality. The love storylines rang false. When I finished the novel, I had no idea why each person had such a “deep connection” with his or her respective love interest. It fell into the dangerous “insta-love” trend that is so prevalent in young adult fiction (except this novel had no excuse—it was supposed to be realistic fiction).
Additionally, the author portrays the teenagers’ relationships with their parents in a horrible light. The novel follows five teenagers’ families and lives, and in every plotline, the parents were oppressive, had a lot of miscommunication issues with their children, and written in a way that wasn’t positive. I felt that this novel would have been a lot stronger if the author could have at least shown a range of different relationships, since she does have so many main characters. I understand that she was trying to capture the teenage angst of feeling misunderstood, but really, it wasn’t done with much tack or subtly.
I also felt that the author didn’t really have a good understanding of her characters. Firstly, Jessica’s voice did not remain constant throughout the novel. Secondly, the author’s other characters only had one thing that defined them. For example, whenever the reader was in Vivian’s point of view, the only thing that characterized her voice and made her distinctive is that she kept using the Pantone palette to “color her world,” which was refreshing at first but got really annoying after a while.
The author had a really hard time figuring out what point of view to tell her story from. It was supposed to rotate points of view between the five characters, but when the author tried to describe something from another character’s point of view, Jessica’s thoughts and her feelings would bleed into that point of view and vice-versa. Furthermore, I don’t think that Amber Kizer had a good grasp on how her world worked. I was really confused how Jessica was able to switch between her organ recipients (and why there were only four of them), how she could essentially read their minds, and why she could sometimes interact with the physical world.
Overall, I felt as if I was reading the first draft, not something that was printed and bound and meant for the general public.