Cyberbullying, religious doubt and coming out are just three themes shoehorned into a well-meaning but unsuccessful novel.
Already stressed from keeping her atheism and her brother’s sexuality a secret from her religiously conservative family, Cass is devastated when an online survey convinces her she is the “least interesting” person she knows. She reacts by starting an anonymous advice blog, which quickly becomes a magnet for cyberbullying. Unsure of the proper response and further distracted by academic struggles and a potential new romance, Cass’ failure to act leads to disaster. Cass’ internal struggles as she realizes her developing values differ from her friends’ and family’s are deeply believable. The fear of personal rejection that prevents Cass from seeking help with her personal struggles and the resulting panic-fueled decisions that inadvertently draw her into a malicious social circle likewise resonate. Less credible are her parents, whose ideologies conveniently shift to speed resolution. Much of their characterization centers on their religious faith, which describes gay-rights activists as attempting to turn believers “away from God’s path.” Despite this, they immediately support their son’s public declaration of love to his boyfriend. This so contradicts the rest of the novel that it feels contrived rather than heartwarming; several other conflicts resolve with equal lack of credibility.
Ultimately, the credulity-straining number of plotlines compressed into the narrative obscures Cass’ potentially candid voice. (Fiction. 12-18)