“Whenever someone says some- thing about us, it gets written inside us, permanently. The good words, the ugly words, it’s all right here.” I placed a palm against my chest. “Sure, you can scribble out the words or try to paint over them, but beneath the layers of paint and ink, they’re still there, branded to our cores like initials carved in a tree.”
Title: Life Unaware
Author: Cole Gibson
Publication: April 28, 2015 by Entangled Teen
Regan Flay is on the cusp of achieving her control-freak mother’s “plan” for high school success―cheerleading, student council, the Honor Society—until her life gets turned horribly, horribly upside down. Every bitchy text. Every bitchy email. Every lie, manipulation, and insult she’s ever said have been printed out and taped to all the lockers in school.
Now Regan has gone from popular princess to total pariah.
The only person who even speaks to her is her former best friend’s hot but socially miscreant brother, Nolan Letner. Nolan thinks he knows what Regan’s going through, but what nobody knows is that Regan isn’t really Little Miss Perfect. In fact, she’s barely holding it together under her mom’s pressure. But the consequences of Regan’s fall from grace are only just beginning. Once the chain reaction starts, no one will remain untouched…
Especially Regan Flay
Life Unaware is one book I think every teenager needs to read. It handles the hard topic of bullying and suicide, as well as eating disorders and anxiety. This is one of those bullying books, though, that you are reading from the perspective of one of the actual bullies. I was concerned at first, I didn’t think I would like Regan Flay because of what she does to keep herself at the top of the social hierarchy, but when reading from her perspective it was easy to see how much she hated it and understand why she did it. The books is about how that bully originated, developed, and how their world came crashing down around them. In all honesty, the things she said about people weren’t that bad – it was everyday gossip we all hear at some point or another during high school, the only difference is she got caught. Well, let me rephrase that, she didn’t get caught, her private messages were hacked, printed out, and put up around the entire school with every other offender’s name crossed out so only she got the blame. Nowadays, it seems like every other day we hop on social media to see another story about a teen being bullied. It may be a headline for a news article, or it may be a post by a friend or family member concerned over how their child is being treated. Either way, when you think it should be getting better -that as a whole we should be getting a grip on bullying – it just feels like nobody’s listening because it keeps escalating. No one ever seems to understand how much their words and actions can wound another person.
I love how Gibsen portrayed the bullying, especially because of how prevalent cyber bullying is in today society. Modern day bullying is also a lot more subtle, which is what makes it so dangerous. Regan herself doesn’t see the impact her words have on people, not until she experiences the other side of it. I honestly didn’t think the bullying that she put other people through was anything near as bad as what they did to her, it just shows how unfair and cruel the real world can be. One of the things I found very interesting in the book was Regan’s anxiety disorder, it made her much more likable and believable. I also loved how she loathed going to school because of the part she had to play, how much she hated what her mother made her do and how her mom treated her, and the way she knew what she was saying about other people was wrong. I think that is one thing a lot of people forget about bullies, a lot of the time – they hate what they do, but they feel like they need to in order to keep up appearances. Regan’s bullying was hardly ever face to face, it was mostly done over social media and texting – which is why it took her so long to be caught. Most people at school thought she was the goodie, all American girl her mother forced her to play.
This was a beautiful book for a few reasons. One, it is rare to find a book where all the characters are fleshed out and important, not just the main one. The characters are incredibly well developed with solid motivations that drive their actions, Regan especially. She is so incredibly three-dimensional, it’s hard to remember she’s just a figment of Cole Gibsen’s imagination. But even Payton, Amber, Christy, Nolan and her parents have their own arcs and issues that tell us who they are and why the tick the way they do. I found it all absolutely fascinating, every time a character had “screen time” it had a specific reason. Another thing that really helped make this such a beautiful story was Cole Gibsen’s writing. Her voice was fresh, youthful, and inspiring. She had wonderful metaphors and similes, and I really loved how she wasn’t afraid to drop a few curse words and use the harsh truth of reality. This book didn’t candy coat anything, and I really liked that. Life Unaware really did a great job at demonstrating the affect mental illness can have on the individuals who have them, but also those who they come into contact with. Another reason I applaud this book is that it shows how common mental illness among teens really is – Regan is not the only character who suffers with a mental health problem in the book, which is a change from other books which (despite still being awesome) often only focus on one particular character with mental health problems. The fact that Cole Gibsen decided to include more than one character with mental health problems made all Life Unaware even more real.
As for the romance department, Nolan and Regan’s pairing was pretty cute and swoon worthy. I really loved their bickering and quarrels, no relationship is perfect and this is one of those books that actually shows that. There’s absolutely no insta-love here! I hate insta-love, so I enjoyed the fact that their romance spawned from him finally seeing the real her after she was the one being bullied. Speaking of Nolan, I really liked him a lot. He’s funny and sarcastic and smart. He’s also kind and stood up for Regan when she was abandoned by her friends and was being bullied. Heck, he was the only person at school talking to her when she became the school pariah. I thought Nolan Letner was freaking perfect, at least for a little while. I’m not going to say why, because at the end of the story I still loved him and I don’t want to spoil it for any of you.
Life Unaware was pretty intense, too. It wasn’t just Regan’s story, but it depicts how cruel high school can be. What I liked about this book is that it showed both the sides of the bully and the victim. That sometimes, the bullies are victims, too, and they’re also suffering from their personal issues. Life Unaware conveys a very important message that we should try to look past the surface and see what’s underneath and not be too quick to judge. Just like what We Were Liars said, “Be a little kinder than you have to.”
Overall, I absolutely loved this book. Life Unaware is an emotional roller coaster and packs one hell of a punch, don’t underestimate teenagers – they are terrifying little beasts on the inside. This is one of the first books I have read that really captures what it is like to go to high school, it’s not all happiness and singing – it’s horrible, terrifying, and it kicks your butt for four years. Flay herself says that “the weak don’t survive high school”, and she is right. I would leave this book for ages fifteen or older because of the subject matter, but I still think everyone needs to read it. I can’t wait to see what other books Gibsen turns out, this one was absolutely breathtaking.