Regan Flay has been talking about you. 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.
As with any invisible illness, sometimes the easiest thing to do is hide. Regan has become a master of hiding her true self, (thanks to her mom’s polished advice from years of being a congresswoman), and so far it’s worked out well for everyone. Everyone that is except for the people Regan’s words have hurt. On top of her early demise, Regan’s anxiety medication helps, but she recognizes herself becoming more dependent as her panic attacks worsen. When her best friend’s older brother (and social pariah) Nolan, starts to befriend her, Regan wonders if she really could find freedom in being herself. Only problem is, she doesn’t know who that real Regan is.
This book was equal parts delightful and heartbreaking. I particularly enjoyed how none of the characters shied away from openly,(even if not at first), discussing addictions and invisible illnesses. The entire book touched on various struggles, never making one appear worse than the other, but acknowledging that sometimes what we see on the surface isn’t the entire story. While Regan battled her own demons, she found herself experiencing freedom through being open about her anxiety disorder.
As Regan learns how to be herself, she also begins to learn more about her contribution to the bullying problem at her high school. I really loved how Regan’s realization that she had been a bully helped her resolve to build up those she had hurt. Rather than wallow in her guilt, she takes initiative and shows real courage by standing up for others, and standing up for herself. I think that this message is so important to share with readers, especially in a way that isn’t overbearing or preachy. Life Unaware allowed me to observe this faction of high school while contemplating what I can do to improve my own sphere of influence.
I typically don’t enjoy love stories in contemporary fiction, but experiencing Regan’s first love as she simultaneously battles a disorder was refreshing and tender. Like so many of us, our lives are not made up of one experience, illness, or emotion - we’re complex and multifaceted. Unlike some contemporary romances, Life Unaware was able to capture the rush of falling in love without pushing some very serious issues to the back burner. Each story thread held its own, and both Regan’s struggles and joys were treated fairly throughout.
One thing I would have liked was a less predictable beginning. I was hoping that Regan’s accusers would have been a little more creative, and ultimately the first few chapters felt too similar to Mean Girls. I would have loved to see more originality on the high school popular girl trope, and in doing so, highlight the unique supporting cast of Regan’s band of friends. Overall, the story did eventually take on a life of its own, making the last half of the book my favorite contemporary read this year.
Life Unaware is a perfect fit for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson and Sara Zarr. This book takes readers through the highs and lows of high school, serving as a reminder of how kind words hold more power than we realize, and that life is precious and worth fighting for.
The Regan introduced in the prologue I had an instant like for and felt for as she struggled to talk about what had happened to her. The Regan in the first chapter, three months before, almost seemed like a completely different person at first. I found myself wanting to know what had happened to make her go from how she acted in the first chapter compared to the prologue. Regan as a bully was not a likeable character but I wouldn’t say she was completely unlikeable either. She was a girl making some horrible decisions in order to keep her secrets and achieve what she needed to get her mother off her back. It never came across as justified excuses for her bullying, which I liked. After her e-mails and texts and every bullying message she’d left was exposed, it was hard watching Regan get torn down by people she considered friends. It just got worse from there and what she had to endure at that school, no one should have to go through. She was slowly changing because of it, which was great to see, and I really like the person she discovered she was. In some ways, Regan reminded me a lot of Blair from Gossip Girl, especially at the beginning.
The writing was fantastic. I found there was a specific vibe that I would feel in the writing when something bad was going to happen soon, which got my nerves worked up wondering what it would be and how much more could Regan possibly take. Regan’s anxiety attacks were so well written. Just reading them made my own chest hurt in sympathy.
I thought there was a lot said in this book that needed to be said and it was powerful. Regan was forced to see just how much words can hurt, both from getting words flung at her and the ones she’d said about others. She saw how easily people will turn on you just to save themselves from becoming a target. She experienced it, she fought to survive it, and she wanted to change it when too many people stay silent.
A very rewarding book that will hopefully make people who read it think twice before they say something about someone because words do hurt.