In Too Deep (Junior Library Guild Selection (Flux))

In Too Deep - Amanda Grace, Mandy Hubbard "In Too Deep" by Amanda Grace is an example of a book that, with the right considerations and development, could've been a much better novel in its overall construction. I saw a great deal of what this book wanted to do in terms of being a story grounded in morals - but that morality is shaded in many different points and feels like it speaks more against its overall intended message rather than for it. Granted, it's not an uncommon plot device for someone to misinterpret something they see in the heat of the moment and spread hearsay rather than speaking on what really happened. It's also not uncommon that the main character in such a scenario may not be able to do anything about it until it's too late. Such an event occurs in the heart of this story when Sam stumbles out of an embarrassing situation at a party one night with one of the most popular guys at school. Her motivation was to make her long time crush jealous by flirting with Carter, one of the most popular guys at school. Terrible judgment call on Sam's part, but I'm not judging that as much in the spectrum of the novel because it is, indeed, an intended moral stumble on Sam's part. It leads within her reasoning for the time and events said to occur. Yet Carter turns her down in a rather rude gesture, even following a series of mishaps that, frankly, I found hard to swallow but was able to suspend disbelief for. She trips in her heels, tears her tank top, and gets a bruise on her face from the fall. The next day, Sam - to her utter mortification - realizes the whole school knows about her embarrassing rejection and fall. Or do they?It turns out that Sam's encounter with Carter was perpetuated into a full blown rumor that takes on a stance of its own. Rumor has it that Sam was raped by Carter. Sam knows this is definitely not true, but she's afraid to dispel it because of the fallout that will occur. All the while, battle lines are drawn in the school between the people who side with Sam and those who side with Carter. There's some prominent slut shaming in the book, and Sam gets caught up in the narratives of many people who have been scorned by Carter, some even plotting revenge, all the while trying to keep up with the budding relationship she has with her best friend Nick, who (to his utter mortification) learns of what the whole school thinks happened with Carter and tries to come to terms with that. And Sam doesn't tell Nick a damned thing, even though they're supposed to be best friends.From there on out, it's a pressure cooker waiting to boil over, all with the backdrop of graduation within a week's span of time. And when it boils, it boils fast. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that the conclusion is all that satisfying. It more or less leaves things up in the air with all the fallout that occurs, and it's not that realistic with its consequence.I'm not going to say that at a certain point the story didn't hit its stride with the way the actual conflict escalated, but goodness this was a trainwreck of a novel. I don't mean that in a positive way.The structuring and pacing of the story was all over the place. At times, the content dragged in an implausible fashion and the characters felt like cardboard cutouts. There was really no point where I felt like I could either like or align with a character in what they thought or felt. I couldn't even feel much for the relationship developed between Nick and Sam, and they're supposed to be best friends turned lovers. The story as a whole came across as puerile despite the serious subject matter. While the subject of the rumor gone awry was done in a way that did feel real, probably the only thing in this novel that did feel real, the matter of rape in this novel not only took a backdrop but fed into many stereotypes about rape that had my jaw dropping to the floor and me absolutely fuming. A better written composition could've actually addressed some of the stereotypes presented and said "Hey, this is wrong". But Sam, as she's presented in the novel, is not that intuitive, and she just gets worse as the novel goes forth. She's incredibly passive, dumb-love struck, and is a bit Mary Sue-ish in construction. When she finally does have the guts to stand up for herself - in her relationships and goals, it's already much too late and the damage has been done. I did think some of the falling out after felt realistic, but I think the open-ended conclusion did more harm than good in terms of having Sam learn from her inaction. It didn't really teach any moral consequences at all - not in a potent way. I didn't care for this novel at all, and I wouldn't recommend it. There are much better YA stories out there that teach not only the consequences of lying, but also do a better job of constructing characters that feel more realistic and relatable. I just couldn't support the way it was told despite having an interesting idea for the plot thematic.Overall score: 1/5