Khanh the Killjoy

Get Even - Gretchen McNeil

She thrust her right hand forward.
“I, Kitty Wei, do solemnly swear, no secrets—ever—shall leave this square.”
Margot was beside her in an instant, her right arm extended.
“I, Margot Mejia, do solemnly swear, no secrets—ever—shall leave this square.”
*rolls eyes*

Let's say you can buy a Dior purse for $50, in a spectacular find on clearance. Let's say you can also buy a knockoff Dior purse for $50. If they're pretty much the same value, wouldn't you want to get something that's more...authentic? Better? Designed and proven to please? That's the case of this book. There's no point in reading it when there is a superior version in Burn for Burn.

The trouble with Get Even is that it's a silly, weak, watered down version of the most excellent Burn for Burn. Furthermore, it's more unrealistic, in the amateur vigilante sort of way. If you just want to be entertained, sure, go for it. If you want a more realistic scenario actually involving revenge...go for the real thing. This is inferior to Burn for Burn in every way.

Furthermore...the premise is rather silly and contradictory. There is a group formed by the four girls in the book. They call themselves "Get Even" (as in...don't get mad...). Their mission is to publicly shame and humiliate bullies...and while nobody likes assholes, doesn't it just bring the anti-bullying group down to the same level of the bullies by humiliating them? I could compare it against the death penalty (and get a lot of flak for it, I'm sure) by saying it's like putting someone to death for murdering someone. I just don't like that sort of message. I feel that Burn for Burn was less blatantly hypocritical in that sense than this book ended up being.


The characters are similar, too...

The Summary: You have four "friends" each as different as can be.

The overweight, socially ostracized, intellectually brilliant Margot.
Margot understood the degradation, the knowledge that every set of eyes was on him, judging his overweight body, murmuring “fat ass” under their breath while they tacitly assumed the obesity was his fault.
The popular, beautiful Asian girl Kitty (I guess I should appreciate the diversity, but this still feels like Burn for Burn).
“Now, to introduce a short video presentation by the leadership class, your student body vice president, Kitty Wei.”
Politician's daughter, hipster wannabe Bree, who doesn't give a shit about her parents' political ambitions.
John might fantasize about how cool it would be to have a superstar politician and heir apparent to the governor’s mansion for a dad, but for Bree, the reality had been sixteen years of being reminded that she was the black sheep of the family who didn’t conform, didn’t appreciate her advantages, didn’t understand how important it was to maintain her dad’s carefully groomed image as the perfect family man.
Beautiful aspiring actress Olivia, with a carefully groomed outer appearance and a secret shame.
Olivia crouched next to her bed and groped around underneath until her hand rested on a large Tupperware container wedged behind some old shoe boxes.
The smell hit her the moment she cracked the seal on the rubber lid. Sugar.
So. Four girls who hang out in completely separate circles. What could they possibly have in common? Well, for one thing...they are the four members of DGM.

DGM is the bane of their school, Bishop DuMaine. They're well-known for pulling pranks, particularly on "bullies" who deserve it. Like a coach with a reputation for humiliating his students. His revenge from DGM is complete and utter public humiliation. Like showing a video clip of his audition for a reality TV show in front of the entire school body.
“I’m Richard Creed,” he said, his best shit-eating grin plastered across his face. “But you can call me Dick.” He wore a blue wifebeater two sizes too small, and his bulky arms looked as if he’d oiled them up with an entire tub of Crisco. He jabbed a thumb at his chest. “And I’m here”—he paused and pointed to the camera—“to give you three reasons why I’m going to win America’s Next Fitness Model.”
DGM is considered to be such a threat to public safety that there's even a school investigation squad established of handsome young hunks, called Maine Men designated to uncover the culprits of DGM.

Well, all's well and dandy until someone gets murdered, and DGM gets the blame for it.
“‘The apparent murder weapon was found at the scene,’” Margot continued. “‘Along with a moniker for a local organization. No suspects are being held at this time. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call detectives at the Menlo Park Police Department.’”
Margot swung around in her chair. “The moniker for a local organization? That would be us.”
Will the members of DGM be able to get over the silly love triangles omg I'm dating my DGM member's ex-boyfriend omg insta-love omg my best friend might be in love with me drama to coordinate their super secret hand signals in order to find out the whodunnit and get the attention off themselves?

All eyes drifted to Kitty. She’d know what to do.
Without hesitation, Kitty drew her hand across her chest, from her left shoulder to her right, giving the signal, then dropped her arm to her side and strode away.
The Setting:
“Ronny’s a predator,” she said. “And we can stop him from hurting someone else.” Kitty thrust out her chin. “Don’t get mad!”
All three girls answered in strong, solid unison.
“Get even!”
The secret super special secret society here just feels fucking silly.Instead of a more serious premise, we have pretty much a club with special hand signals and chants. What the fuck, man?

Here's the difference: whereas in Burn for Burn, we get to watch the characters slowly come together in a quest for revenge...Get Even already comes pre-formed, and fuck if it isn't silly as hell. I mean, they have their own special group hand-shake power-chant. They have ALL met before the book. Their secret group of friends (who don't appear anywhere near each other on the high school social ladder) have already pre-formed, and as such, we don't get any of the interesting dynamics that develop between them initially. This book feels shallow and silly and unrealistic.

Burn for Burn worked better. We got to know the characters. We got to really FEEL their need for vengeance, that was why the premise felt realistic. That was why the premise worked. That was why I got fired up for revenge.

This book is not about revenge as much as it is about vigilantism and I can't say I support that. Yes, it sucks that there are bullies in school, and yeah, it sucks if you're a victim, but I am a firm believer that karma works, and I am a firm believer that teachers and authority figures actually know their shit, and yeah, high school sucks. Trust me, I remember it well, but this, too, shall pass, and in my opinion, taking it out on the bullies, while it feels good, takes us down to the level of the bullies themselves.

So that is why I can't fully support nor do I found the premise in this book enjoyable and believable. It just doesn't work for me.

The connection between the girls are hardly there.
“Are you sure,” Bree said drily, “you like your face that way? Because I could rearrange it for you.”
They're just people who happened to join together for the same cause. There is no dynamic, no compelling backstory, no true sense of an alliance, above all, no true friendship.
But when it came time to choose an outreach program for the project, all four of them picked the same one—an antibullying awareness group.
Womp, womp, womp. It's a dull letdown, and a dull premise that never meshed. I never got a sense of satisfaction from the book, in whatever justifiable (or not) acts of revenge perpetrated within this book.

The Characters: They feel clichéd. Yeah, I know it's a high school book. I know that it should be clichéd to a point, but there's a way of writing characters to make characters feel...real, and this book didn't do it for me. The main characters don't feel real. The people at the school don't feel real. They're more or less standardized high school tropes, like the mean girl Queen Bee.
A commotion rippled through the gathering crowd, as Amber Stevens pushed her way to the front, smiling gleefully in Theo’s direction. “What a pig!”
“Great,” Mika muttered. “The Supreme Bitch has arrived.”
To the evil headmaster, to a druggie whose nickname is...Ed the Head.
“Ladies!” A gleam of braces and a whiff of strong and probably needless aftershave were the only harbingers of the skinny sophomore who spun onto the bench between Peanut and Jezebel.
“Hey, Ed.” Olivia couldn’t keep her eyes from lingering on his bulging backpack as she wondered what contraband he was peddling today.
A peddler of everything from homework to junk food to running a gambling ring. The jocks are overly jock-y. The cliques are severely defined. There's nothing that feels realistic about this book.

I mean, sure, you could read this book. It's entertaining enough if you don't think about it, but why bother, when Burn for Burn is so much better?

All quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof subject to change in the final edition.