Book Review: Underneath Everything

Underneath Everything
Published By: Balzer & Bray
Publication Date: October 27, 2015
Page Count: 304
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary

Mattie, Kris, Bella, and Jolene were best friends. Until one summer night after their sophomore year when Mattie and Kris decided to walk away from everything - the friends, the popularity, even Mattie's boyfriend. 

 Now Mattie and Kris are seniors. Mattie runs into her old boyfriend, Hudson, and she realizes that maybe she wants some of it back. They all end up at a party at Bella's house. The events that occur that night set off a chain of events that forever change the rest of their senior year. 

At the end of Bella's party, Mattie finds Jolene passed out, surrounded by a group of boys from the high school who are contemplating assaulting her. Mattie rescues Jolene and takes her home. 

Although Mattie walked away from Jolene, their relationship never truly ended. Jolene continued to text Mattie for more than a year and during Jolene's entire relationship with Hudson. Mattie never answered Jolene, but she never blocked her either. 

 What follows is a disturbing description of human behavior. Mattie and Jolene's relationship was toxic and destructive. It almost seemed as if Jolene had complete control over Mattie when they were "friends". I was on pins and needles while reading this book. It was never obvious to me what was going to happen with any of the characters, which led to a bit of anxiety while reading the book! 

 The writing in this book was wonderful. I definitely got a sense of the characters' personalities, which is probably why it was so unnerving. Jolene and Mattie are exceptionally well developed characters. 

 Unfortunately, I didn't find any of the characters very likable. Bella was shallow and insecure. Mattie was so confused about what she wanted and had a hard time figuring out exactly who she was. Jolene seemed to be a borderline psychopath. Kris and Hudson were fairly down to earth, although they both made their share of mistakes, as teenagers do. I did like Mattie's brother, Jake. He seemed to understand the real world after high school, yet wanted to try and help Mattie navigate through her problems. 

 I realize that I'm probably in the minority of those who aren't fawning all over this book. I enjoyed it for the first 1/3. The second 1/3 of the book was getting intense, but I was confused as to what direction the author was taking me. The ending was a bit of a let down after such a big build up and left me feeling a bit like one of Jolene's bewildered "friends".

Underneath Everything is a seductive, gorgeously written debut about two girls bound by an obsessive and toxic friendship, perfect for fans of Lauren Oliver and Courtney Summers.

Mattie shouldn't be at the bonfire. She should be finding new maps for her collection, hanging out with Kris, and steering clear of almost everyone else, especially Jolene. After all, Mattie and Kris dropped off the social scene the summer after sophomore year for a reason. But now Mattie is a senior, and she's sick of missing things. So here she is. And there's Jolene: Beautiful. Captivating. Just like the stories she wove. Mattie would know—she used to star in them. She and Jolene were best friends. Mattie has the scar on her palm to prove it, and Jolene has everything else, including Hudson.

But when Mattie runs into Hudson and gets a glimpse of what could have been, she decides to take it all back: the boyfriend, the friends, the life she was supposed to live. Problem is, Mattie can't figure out where Jolene's life ends and hers begins. Because there's something Mattie hasn't told anyone: She walked away from Jolene over a year ago, but she never really left.