Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Mean Girl Apologies by Stephanie Monahan

* * * 1/2

You know that catchy song you keep hearing on the radio? It’s about you.

Natalie Jamison has spent five years trying to forget the girl she was in high school: popular, pretty…and, okay, mean. Now in her twenties and living once again in her small town, she’s right back where she was: following Queen Bee Amber and keeping secrets from her best friend, Sarah.

Secrets like Jack Moreland.

Everyone knows Jack Moreland—his new album, Good Enough, is everywhere. He’s famous. Impossibly handsome. Completely untouchable. But what none of Natalie’s old clique knows is that in high school, Natalie and Jack fell in love. And their secret relationship was incredible, painful—and earth-shattering enough to inspire an entire album.

Facing friends and enemies isn’t easy, but Natalie will go to great lengths to prove she is good enough—to her friends, to herself, and most of all, to the small-town boy turned worldwide heartthrob she never forgot.

This book surprised me because I wasn’t expecting for it to be so personally introspective. There were many times while reading, I felt myself transported back to school days reminiscing both the good and bad that were mentioned here.

Natalie at first comes off as a bit of an acolyte, eager to please and gain approval from her "friend" Amber. It’s off-putting considering she’s been away from her small town for the last five years and only recently returned. Falling into step with her old group of friends is not exactly where she pictured she’d end up after all this time. So she’s dismayed to fall into old habits – ones she'd thought she’d shaken off. The redeeming thing here is that she realizes what's happening. Hearing Jack’s song on the radio is what wakes her up. She knows what the song is about, knows it’s directed at her and now it forces her to reassess her life and decisions.

Coming face-to-face with her former love is uncomfortable. Things ended badly between them so she doesn’t know how Jack will react to seeing her. When they do it’s every bit as uncomfortable as she expected. There’s also a sense of familiarity and sadness that what they had between them which was so pure, ended. He IS the one that got away. Her fear of what her friends thought at that time in her life trumped her feelings of what she knew was right. She's not sure if she can fix things between her and Jack but the meeting is a catalyst for personal change.

Natalie goes through her mental list of people she has wronged from high school and embarks on addressing those transgressions in order to move on. It’s not easy but she does it and what she learns from these encounters is only making her a better person. I was just amazed by her. I thought what she did was brave and showed maturity. So while there’s certainly romance and lost love involved, the real story here is Natalie’s own emancipation from the clutches of her old group of friends to declare the kind of person she wants to be.

As you read this, I dare you not to think of your own history to see if you’ve either been a victim or the perpetrator of some of the offenses that Natalie confesses to.  Would you be as brave as Natalie to face the people you’ve wronged? Or would you be forgiving to accept that person’s apologies for hurting you? The Mean Girl Apologies is truly about growing up, learning what true friendship is and and becoming a better kind of person. It's also about telling the bully to suck it!

~ Bel

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