“I know the truth can hurt, even when you need to hear it.”
Synopsis: High school senior Cameron Bright’s reputation can be summed up in one word: bitch. It’s no surprise she’s queen bee at her private L.A. high school—she’s beautiful, talented, and notorious for her cutting and brutal honesty. So when she puts her foot in her mouth in front of her crush, Andrew, she fears she may have lost him for good.
In an attempt to win him over, Cameron resolves to “tame” herself, much like Katherine in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. First, she’ll have to make amends with those she’s wronged, which leads her to Brendan, the guy she labelled with an unfortunate nickname back in the sixth grade. At first, Brendan isn’t all that receptive to Cameron’s ploy. But slowly, he warms up to her when they connect over the computer game he’s developing. Now if only Andrew would notice…
But the closer Cameron gets to Brendan, the more she sees he appreciates her personality—honesty and all—and wonders if she’s compromising who she is for the guy she doesn’t even want.
Age Group & Genre(s): Coming of Age, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Point of View: First Person
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2019
Reviews on this novel have been circling around a lot in the book blogging community, ARC’s and eager beaver buyers alike. I’m fond of retelling’s WHEN done RIGHT and the reviews made this novel sound VERY promising, so I decided to give it a shot … it’s also just a lovely cover. Much to my surprise, this has jumped high on my favourite reads of 2019! The flow of the story, the HILARIOUS main character and accompanied side characters, the morals explored in this story … I can’t get my head around how brilliant this novel is … I read it in TWO sitting sessions, which is a lot for me. I’m eager to read more by Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka!
CONTENT & TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains abuse (emotional, verbal), bullying and divorce.
The snippets of real world sensations makes this novel a WHOLE new level of relatable! From famous YouTubers to cosplay, there’s no end to this real world exploration. Not only does this make it easier to understand the characters’ lives more, but it makes the reading experience fresh and entertaining. I loved being able to relate to so many things mentioned in this novel, such as simply knowing what IMDb is to knowing the realm of cosplay. The “movie event” (you’ll know it when you read it) was a big one for me, since I’ve done this myself in university and it was a BLAST! But it’s also the more serious things, such as people wanting to explore computer sciences as a degree STILL being ridiculed … even though we live in such a technology dependent society. Having something to connect to just made the experience even greater!
A comical retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, but with a positive and healthy outcome. The biggest (but not only) downfall in Shakespeare’s play was the treatment of Katherine. Sure, she’s an awful person … but she doesn’t deserve the torture and embarrassment inflicted upon her, nor the complete destruction and recreation of her identity. But in If I’m Being Honest, Cameron doesn’t succumb to this fate. Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka’s create a beautiful rendition of the “Reformed Bully Trope”, showing Cameron’s initial self-motivated means for doing good deeds to her desire to actually become a better person. And unlike Katherine, Cameron is STILL Cameron — her traits and dreams and quirks remain the same, but her way of socializing and interacting with others changes in a positive light throughout the novel.
This is more than another love story … it’s a story about acceptance and breaking down social norms. The class clown, the jock, the nerd, the outcast … humans are too complex to be broken into such specific categories. Being an athlete doesn’t mean you aren’t intelligent … being a nerd doesn’t make you socially awkward. Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka take apart these “standards” and “stereotypical” groups by showing characters’ complex personalities and interests, intermingling the “defined groups” and showing their similarities, and watching Cameron’s character growth. This is what MY high school experience was like, so it was lovely to see something I could actually associate with in my own life.
Character growth … character growth EVERYWHERE!! Now as you all may know, I THRIVE on character oriented novels. Guys … this did NOT disappoint! Cameron goes through SUCH a large change throughout the story. But what’s better? She’s not the only one … almost all the major reoccurring characters go through this experience, whether big or small. Not all have the outcome we hope for. Some don’t take the “Cameron method”, and that’s okay … it makes the story feel more REALISTIC when everything isn’t tied into a neat and happy bow. Life’s messy, as Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka are not afraid to illustrate. I also truly loved how If I’m Being Honest emphasizes NOT to judge someone by how their life “appears” to be. Seeing into all of their worlds, Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka explore how people portray their lives can be deceiving … how we need to learn to judge less and have more patience in our lives.
Even though the novel’s already close to 400 pages long, there was still a VAST amount of content to explore! Typically, reading this large of a novel’s quite enough for me; however, there were areas that felt incomplete when I finished If I’m Being Honest. For one, the exploration between Cameron’s relationship with her mom is something I really wanted the novel to dive into. There’s some discussion, but it’s brushed aside fairly quickly. Cameron’s relationship with her mom and dad are main reasons for her “behaviour”, so not having this addressed more kind of bothered me. I also felt this way with Cameron and Brendan. I wanted to see Cameron learn to open up more with him, showing her vulnerable side as their friendship blossoms.
If I’m Being Honest is a brilliantly written coming of age novel, exploring in-depth character analysis and fighting stereotypes one chapter at a time. As someone who struggles with longer novels, this didn’t feel REMOTELY close to 400 pages. With a desire to have more time with these amazing characters and this grandiose plot, I wasn’t ready to let it go at the end. Though I felt shorthanded with some character connections in the novel, this is my ONLY complaint about this novel. I enjoyed it so much that I plan to re-read it again in the near future. This is a perfect summer read, full of funny commentary and moral complexity to spice things up a bit. Have you picked up your copy yet?