Initial reaction: I think that I would've liked this even more if it didn't feel like certain things were missing from the connection with the narrative. I loved the strongly asserted female voice and intent of the narrative overall.
Natalie Richards's "Gone Too Far" is a decent novel and I liked it quite a bit for what it offered. I'm guessing some of you are expecting a "but" in there somewhere because of my rating of only 3 stars, and you would be correct. Something in this read felt like it was missing for me. I couldn't figure out what it was at first, but it finally hit me as I went along. I'll explain that part of it shortly.
"Gone Too Far" starts off with a bang. I loved the protagonist's voice at first. Piper's pretty self-aware, and I liked that about her. She also seems to have a close group of friends that are detailed and intricately drawn, with distinct personalities and meaningful connections to Piper's circle. The narrative starts with Piper finding a mysterious notebook full of things that are described as "truths", corruptions, things that remain hidden about people in the popular crowd. She really doesn't know what to do with this book, but as an event rocks Piper's perception of the social hierarchy that exists within her school, she feels compelled to do something in the aftermath of something that leaves her feeling completely helpless.
Enter: the mysterious texter. A vigilante. Someone who promises Piper that those who do bad things will be punished. Apparently said person knows about the notebook that Piper's found, and the fact that Piper feels the need to get revenge over the tragic events that she witnessed at school. The actions start light and become heavier as time goes on, to the point where the namesake of the novel is pretty spot on for measure. And yes, said person becomes power hungry and crosses the line, with Piper feeling like everything's been taken to the extreme and more people are getting hurt than helped.
No, I won't call this mysterious person Light/Kira, because compared to "Death Note", this person's waaaaay on the scale of lightweight in terms of moral transgressions. At first I thought this book would be a little more intense with the emotions and actions as this mysterious person became more power hungry, but the narrative seemed to pull its emotional punches in places, like it didn't want to go the whole nine yards as far as what this person was willing to do to seek justice against the pretty popular people who got away with stuff just because of their status and power in school.
Piper knows what she's going into is complicated and an odd sense of justice, but doesn't quite realize the extent. It takes her relationship with someone from the "in-crowd" to knock her presumptions out of the park as well. Richards does a fine job with showing the connections in the relationships between characters here. I liked Piper's connections with Tate, Stella, Nick, Manny...the cast was shown in the interactions vividly. I think the problem was the fact that there were some emotionally key scenes that didn't match up for the intensity they were meant to have. You get that the scenarios are bad, but there's an odd distance between those events and punch gut reeling that you get when someone's doing this kind of thing to someone that Piper cares about, even to the point where it turns around on her and gets her in the crosshairs for suspicion. Plus, when the reveal's finally made about her mysterious texter, I felt like it was a little haphazard in the reveal. I think it could've been far, far smoother than it was actually delivered. It wasn't a bad reveal, but the motivations somewhat fell apart at the fringes for me, and that kept the read from being more than what it was.
Still, I'd give it kudos for showing Piper coming to terms that her perceptions of relationships weren't all that they were cracked up to be. The narrative did keep me guessing, and I enjoyed some of the bit interactions of the characters. I'm interested to see how Richards develops things in her other works for sure. I kind of wish this one had a little more fire and bite to it though, not to the point of melodrama or emotional resonance for manipulation sake, but something that really grips you and doesn't let go right along with the character. I wanted to feel it, I was ready to be convinced for it, but it felt like it pulled back just when it could've hit home.
Overall score: 3/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Sourcebooks Fire.