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Khanh the Killjoy

An uncomfortable book

Premeditated - Josin L. McQuein

No spoilers.

I find myself really conflicted about this book and the subject it addresses. This book left me really uncomfortable and disturbed at how the main character chooses to tackle her particular brand of vigilante justice. I truly feel for her---the issue of bullying is not an easy thing to address, and to see a loved one suffer like that would likely also make me lose control. I truly appreciate the topic and how it was addressed, but I ultimately did not like Dinah, the main character. I cannot agree with the haphazard way that she went on with her amateurish investigation; her utter determination to destroy whom she perceives as the villain did not rest well with me.

Technology is a beautiful thing, but there's an dark, horrible underside of it that is particularly evident when social media can be used to ruin a young person's life. At worst, it could end it. Most of us have read the horrible stories in the news---a nude picture, a photograph of an intimate, indiscreet moment; a poor decision made by a very, very young, very susceptible person that eventually leads to widespread bullying, social ostracization, and ultimately---suicide. That is the issue that this book tackles; our main character, Dinah, is out for vengeance against one young man named Brooks Walden for what he has allegedly done to her beloved cousin.

No matter how messy it gets, or how much blood’s involved, suicide’s a clean kill.
Though any scenario ending with Brooks Walden in a mangled heap would have worked for me.

Dinah's cousin Claire lays fighting for her life after a suicide attempt, and Dinah thinks she knows who is responsible for putting her in that hospital bed. It is Brooks Walden, a boy Claire had met the previous summer. The boy with whom she had fallen in love. The boy who left Claire's bright spirit in pieces by the time he was through with her, and the boy who's responsible for the fact that right now, Claire is only breathing with the aid of a machine hooked up to her lungs.

There were ways to treat cancer. Claire would have fought cancer. Cancer wouldn’t have left her in a bloody mess on her bathroom floor with a razor still clutched in her hand. What got Claire was subtler than cancer. It had rotted her from the inside out and left no trace of itself behind.

Dinah, the goth-punk, reinvents herself. She removes her piercings. She strips the dye from her hair. She puts herself into a school uniform, all for the purpose of infiltrating the private (read: snooty, expensive, and exclusive) Eleanor Lowry School in order to exact her vengeance on Brooks Walden.

I understand the motivation behind Dinah's actions, but for me, she was not a terribly likeable character. Dinah is strong-willed, I like that about her, she is loyal, she is a good friend. She is also headstrong, she has a tendency to think in black or white. She has a lot of preconceptions, and she hates admitting that she is wrong. Dinah dives in headfirst. She is judge, jury, executioner. Once she makes up her mind about something, she clings onto that belief at all cost, regardless of the evidence, regardless of her instincts.

Dinah has such a black and white view of the world. She has such a preconceived notion of the kind of people who attend the Lowry School, and it is not at all positive. To her, Lowry is a "Wonderland," as in Lweis Carroll's Alice's Wonderland. She casts people as the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat. Those are the major players, the rest of the students are generic, boring, of no interest to Dinah. She labels them all "Tweedledums and dees." Her black-and-white notion of the school is one of the characteristics that I disliked about her, and it took her entirely far too long to admit her mistakes in labeling these people.

A bitter trail of mistaken assumptions wound its way into my stomach...She might not be a friend, but she wasn’t really an enemy other than the one I’d made of her.
How much of what I thought I knew had been shaped by the order in which I’d met the people who had told it to me?

Dinah's narrowmindedness made her a very unreliable narrator, and for me, an rather unlikeable one.

Dinah is absolutely abominable in how she sets out to ruin Brooks' life. I understand her determination, I understand her anger, her hurt, her need to get revenge for the wrong allegedly done to her cousin. I understand her motivation, but I cannot forgive her actions, and I cannot overlook the despicable way she sets out to ruin a young man's life with not much evidence besides the little she has gleaned from Claire's diary.

It is all so very convenient, too. The absolutely incompetent Dinah has some very sneaky, conniving friends (whom I rather hate) who helps her to gradually plant evidence, make false accusations, to slowly and surely wreck Brook's life. Despite the fact that Brook could potentially be the despicable person Claire made him out to be, there is little throughout the book to demonstrate or justify the slow destruction of Brook's life, future, and reputation. I cannot help but feel terrible and uncomfortable when I read about the consequences of Dinah's plan.

“Who does something like this?” Brooks’ rant had continued while I zoned out. “Both of my top college picks have probably blackballed me. Headmistress Kuykendall informed me that I’m on strike two and one short step from being kicked out of here, which means I’m half that far from being kicked out of my house, as Dad says I’m a disgrace to my mother’s memory. I have a police report with my name on it. I have an arrest record. They ask that when you get a job, don’t they?”

The plot and the writing itself was good, if rather contrived and unrealistic at times. The romance aspect of it was light---but altogether incomprehensible and unbelievable, given the characters' action and the direction in which the plot turned. I do appreciate this book and the difficult topic it addresses, but I cannot say I enjoyed reading it.