Book Review: Life By Committee

Life By Committee
By: Corey Ann Haydu
Published By: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Page Count: 304
Source: ARC Provided by Publisher
Audience/Genre: YA Fiction

I loved this book and I hated this book, both in the best way possible and for the same reasons. Yes, the premise is unique and interesting. The idea of an online, anonymous Truth or Dare is both scary and liberating. But I loved this book because Tabitha reminded me of myself, but not even close to the best version of myself. She reminded me of the version of myself that I don't want to admit exists. Which is why I wanted to hug her just slightly more than I wanted to shake her.

At first glance, the premise for this book might seem far fetched -- teenage girl divulges her secrets and trusts a group of strangers she's connected with anonymously via the internet to help her make life-altering decisions -- but in the age of social media, constant access, and non-existent privacy, it really isn't that hard to believe that people would turn to the internet and a group of strangers for advice (like a book review blog, for instance). The group at Life by Committee trades secrets and steers Tabby's life and, at first, it seems like a fun game and a way to do things she wants to (but shouldn't) with permission and encouragement. And don't we all want a way to rationalize and blame others for the decisions we know are bad, but that deep down we really want?

And anyone who has been to the point that they just can't deal -- with their life, with their friends, with their parents, with themselves, with everything -- can see the attraction in surrendering control and letting other people decide for you. And that's right where Tabby is, her childhood friends have not just abandoned her, but are constantly judging her. She has one new friend who she manages to alienate fairly regularly. She has a secret boyfriend who has to stay a secret, because he has a girlfriend who isn't Tabby. And then there are her too-young, pot-smoking, coffee shop-owning parents. I'd want to run away too...

Initially, I adored Tabby. She was maligned. She was unfairly scrutinized. I completely got her. And then midway through the book I started to doubt the truth she was selling to the reader. The seed of doubt grew slowly, a few character's reactions to and observations about her, but it kept building until I was so frustrated with her I could scream. That's when I knew I loved this book. Haydu has created a very real, and a very flawed, character that made me mildly uncomfortable with reminders of destructive and selfish behaviors in my own life. Which would explain why I cried, and laughed, and cried, and laughed, for the last 20 pages or so. All in all, a great read.

Last Word: Tabitha is a complex and completely relatable protagonist and Corey Ann Haydu provides a much needed and satisfying emotional payoff at the end with both tears and laughter.

Summary via Goodreads

Tabitha might be the only girl in the history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. But her so-called friends say she’s changed, and they’ve dropped her flat.

Now Tab has no one to tell about the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her: Joe, who spills his most intimate secrets to her in their nightly online chats. Joe, whose touch is so electric, it makes Tab wonder if she could survive an actual kiss. Joe, who has Tabitha brimming with the restless energy of falling in love. Joe, who is someone else’s boyfriend.

Just when Tab is afraid she’ll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she finds Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe.

Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she’d ever go on her own.

But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go?