May 4, 2018

Face the Consequences • If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say

Winter Halperin has a one-time National Spelling Bee championship under her belt and admission to her dream college already in place. But everything changes when she writes a racially offensive tweet that she thought was a harmless joke. Faced with Internet shaming and rejection from her community, Winter's life as she knows it falls apart. In order to redeem herself and move forward, Winter has to come to terms with what she did and why it evoked such a response.

It's not easy to read this book. The first third will frustrate most readers, especially because Winter is frustrating in her inability to understand the true depth of her offensive statement and is madly scrambling about to defend what she said to stop the tide of negativity towards it. It will make readers angry to see her being so callous about other folks' responses; I know I was mad at Winter for most of the story, personally, and wrestled with my feelings towards her characters all the way till the end. But this novel is about Winter learning to recognize what she's done and why people reacted the way they did, and it's safe to say that she's worked towards some level of understanding as the story progressed. Did it make me like her more? Not really. Did it feel like I understood her better? Perhaps a little, but still not completely. Did it feel like a realistic result of her actions at the start? Yes, though it did certainly get a little heavy-handed by the end.

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say might not have been easy to read, but it certainly left me with a lot to think about. I appreciate the perspective it offered on a fairly common scenario with our heavily occupied online community, particularly how a careless (and perhaps to the writer, harmless) statement can be read as offensive and will be impossible to erase once it's out there. It showed how one thought shared online and gone viral can ruin your entire life, which is what happens in Winter's case. But it also reminds the reader that, behind some of those online statements (some, not all, mind you), there are human beings who might have had different intentions (though it doesn't erase or diminish the hurtfulness of what they might have said). It challenges readers to think about forgiveness. About being careful about what you say. About choosing to be responsible for your actions, including figuring out where you made a mistake and what you're going to do about it. All these things are, of course, just my take on what you'll think about after finishing this one.

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say felt real and raw. It isn't easy to read (or even to like), but it's relevant to this day and age and it tackles a common scenario with brutal honesty. It's definitely going to be a book that inspires discussions (and would make a good book club read, I think). While I can't give a general recommendation for everyone to read it, I would be interested in hearing what those of you who choose to pick it up think of Winter and her story.

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux | Publication Date: May 1, 2018
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thank you!)

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  1. Aaack, I do not think I would like this one at all, haha :D It seems complicated and dramatic. Sigh. But kind of interesting too, maybe :) I'm glad you liked parts of it sweetie. <3 Great review, as always :) Hugs.


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