Book Review: Playing Nice
By: Rebekah Crane
Published By: In This Together Media
Publication Date: January 2013
Page Count: 270
Source: Kindly Provided by Author
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
Playing Nice is a novel that all high school girls should read. It's an intriguing look at bullying and how appearances can be deceiving. There also is a far amount of friend on friend warfare happening in these pages. Sadly, I can remember times when my friends and I were not always nice to one another. What is it about being a teenage girl that brings out our inner witches from time to time?
This novel wasn't anything I expected it to be, but it turned out to better than I predicted. Based on the cover and summary, I was expecting it to be about two girls who didn't get along and all the horrible things they did to one another. Instead the story follows Miss Manners and Sunshine, Marty, as she attempts to befriend the surly, dark new student, Lil. These girls are complete opposites in almost every way, but they learn that their differences actually make them really compatible as best friends. The friendship is looked down upon by everyone from classmates to townsfolk; Marty's parents are less than pleased with her new social decisions.
Rumors begin to swirl and Marty finds herself on the end of vicious gossip that cuts her to the core. Both Marty and Lil realize they could learn a lot from the other and change their lives for the better. Together they have to learn to avoid the rumors and the barbed words that are hurled down the school hallways. Sadly, too many teen girls will relate to this novel. Teenagers need to stop and think before the gossip. Bullying is a chronic issue that shows up in the news all too often. It needs to stop.
While this novel provides commentary on some serious issues, it is also a story about friendship. Friendship isn't always easy - like most things in life it has it's ups and downs. Being a teenager is a volatile time and people don't always make the best decisions. Playing Nice does a nice job of showcasing the conflict that can arise in teen friendships. The happy moments do afford lots of laughter. Be warned though - a lot of the humor is on the raunchy side and Lil curses like a sailor. These weren't deal breakers for me, but I would certainly say this novel is for high school aged teens as a result. The humor, dialogue, and situations are all realistic reflections of teenage life, however, as an adult reader I found the humor to be annoying at times. I reacted much the way Marty does from time to time when Lil would go off on one of her tangents.
Another element that I liked about this novel was the concept of first love and first crushes. We can all remember that first person that made our hearts do cartwheels every time they walked by our locker. We can all recall the weakness in the knees that always managed to show up when smiles and hellos were exchanged. The giddiness of that first crush and the longing to have the feelings returned saturates these pages. Rebekah Crane truly does a beautiful job of conjuring up those first crush feelings; she also laces them with a bit of unrequited love and daydreams. The lesson Marty learns about matters of the heart is a difficult one, but I appreciated seeing it reflected in fiction. It's unrealistic for their to be constant love triangles and boys tripping over themselves to woo the main character. I appreciated that the romance in this story felt real; I loved it all the more as a result.
Finally, Marty often keeps her feelings bottled up inside, but learns to channel her thoughts into poetry. The poems were one of my favorite aspects of this novel. I also related to this because I did the same thing as a teen. Marty's character growth is inspiring. I love when she finally finds her voice.
Playing Nice is well written, engaging, and thought provoking. Being a teen girl isn't always easy, but surrounding yourself with awesome people can help you navigate the rocky high school current a little easier. I love seeing real issues reflected in fiction; it is always therapeutic for me to see fictional characters struggling with issues that I struggle with (or used to struggle with) and finding a light at the end of the tunnel.
Rebekah Crane's future work is certainly earning it's way on my TBR list.
One Last Gripe: I was really frustrated by Marty's love issues. I think this will be easier for teen readers to relate to and I am sure as a teen I might have made the exact same choices, but I still wanted her to wake up and see reality.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved the entire concept of appearances being deceiving. This theme pops up in so many ways throughout the story.
First Sentence: My mom likes to tell everyone that from the day I was born she knew I would be a nice person.
Favorite Character: Alex - He was the one character who truly knew himself and always did the right thing
Least Favorite Character: Pippa
Martina "Marty" Hart is really nice. At least, that's what people think.
It's Marty's junior year at Minster High. Minster's a small town where making great grades, smiling pretty, helping old people, running the new-student Welcoming Committee, and putting up decorations for all the dances--including the totally awful Hot Shot fall hunting celebration--gets you ... what? Marty's not sure. Instead of dreaming about a sororities-and-frats future at nearby University of Michigan, she's restless, searching for a way out of the box her controlling mother and best frenemy Sarah have locked her in. When Lil--don't call her Lily!--Hatfield transfers to Minster, Marty gets her chance. Lil's different. She smokes, wears black, listens to angry punk records, and lives in a weird trailer with her mother. Lil has secrets--secrets that make her a target for all the gossiping and online bullying Minster can muster. But so does Marty. And Marty sees something different in Lil. Something honest.
PLAYING NICE is the achingly true story of a girl who's been following the rules for so long she's forgotten who she was when she started. It's about falling in love with the wrong people and not seeing the right ones, about the moments in life when you step out of line, take a chance ... and begin to break free.