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Life Unaware by Cole Gibsen

Life Unaware by Cole Gibsen

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
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 whatnobody 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…

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My Review
This book is intense! In a good way. I waffled on 4-1/2 or 5 stars, because it’s not perfect and I like to save 5 stars for perfect, but this book has more feels than almost anything else I’ve read lately. And the longer I read it, the more perfect it became. Regan’s journey is so satisfying because I disliked her so much in the beginning. But I was four chapters in and ready to stuff my head in an oven I was so depressed. It went from sucky, to horrific, to oh my god can we please just end the misery, in five short chapters. But then something happened and I found that spark of hope I was looking for. And I’m not talking about the story, I’m talking about Regan’s life. The girl I didn’t care about because she was a self-absorbed narcissist. Except Cole Gibsen makes me care about her when I shouldn’t.

Regan is the queen bee of St. Mary’s, a Catholic high school with more girl drama than Mean Girls and Heathers combined. Having attended not one, but two Catholic high schools, I can attest this is a real thing. And her portrayal was spot on. But Regan’s world comes crashing down around her when an even meaner girl, Amber, decides to make Regan’s life a living hell, the same way Regan has done to countless other girls over the years.

Regan grows and develops so believably through the book, I’m won over. What I love is how the author got me there. Regan is every bitchy mean girl, and yet we’re allowed to see her insecurities, we get a behind-the-scenes look at why she is the way she is and it’s powerful. I rooted for her more because she became the ultimate underdog. Sure, she has her flaws, serious, ugly, heinous flaws, and yet I understand why she did the things she did. I wanted to see her fight back, redeem herself, and better yet, to not be the girl she was before, but better in all the right ways.

World Building
I attended two Catholic high schools, one in Ohio and the other in San Diego. The one in Ohio required the uniforms, conformity, conservative ideology. The one in San Diego, much less so. My high school here was more about status where designer clothes ruled the hallways and the parking lot was crammed with brand new BMWs, gifts for sweet sixteen birthdays. St. Mary’s seems to be a blend of my two schools, but it helped me relate. The one thing I realized both schools have in common is that Catholic students swear, bully, smoke, and get pregnant just like public school kids. And I think Cole Gibsen so perfectly captured that in Life Unaware, I almost felt transported back in time.

Plot
The primary plot revolves around Regan’s fall from grace and ultimate redemption, but her relationship with her best friend, Peyton’s older brother, Nolan is raw and powerful and threads through the main plot like a binding stitch, holding everything loosely together. The story moves from the opening pages, and as difficult as it is to read at times, it packs a solid emotional punch, forcing us to look at the world of bullying through the eyes of the bully as well as the victim. It’s easy to paint the bully as the bad guy, but no one is a two-dimensional cardboard character. Amber, as cruel as she can be, has her own issues and it’s hard not to feel for her, too.

Characters
The characters are incredibly well developed with solid motivations that drive their actions. Regan especially is so incredibly three-dimensional, it’s hard to remember she’s just a figment of Cole Gibsen’s imagination. But even Payton, Amber, Christy, Nolan and her parents have their own arcs and issues that tell us who they are and why the tick the way they do.

The Writing
The author’s voice is fresh and youthful, but what I really loved were her similies and metaphors. Her unique turn of phrase took me deep into the story and rooted me there.

The Ending
I liked the ending, although I don’t know that I loved it. But it was realistic. And emotional. In a good way. I don’t know what I would want to make it better. My first thought was an epilogue, but I’m not sure that fits with what the author was trying to accomplish. The fact that I’m still thinking about the messages and the characters this long after finishing is the sign of a good ending, even if it’s not a perfect one. With more time to mull it over, I may decide it’s a brilliant ending.

Top Five Things I Loved About Life Unaware
1. The Video Apology. The video Regan and Nolan make in his room is so raw and real, it only made me love them both more.

2. Christy. She was so vulnerable, it was hard not to love her.

3. Regan. Watching her go from who she was on page one to who she became was one of the best character journeys I’ve read in a long time.

4. Nolan. Sure, he’s not perfect, but neither is Regan. I love Nolan, warts and all. His heart is in the right place most of the time.

5. Payton. She’s a great best friend. Yeah, again, not perfect, but she was there when it mattered and that’s what counts.

Bottom Line
Life Unaware is an intense young adult tale of redemption and forgiveness with complex characters that are hard not to love. Eventually.

Disclaimer
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

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About the Book
Title: Life Unaware
Author: Cole Gibsen
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | BAM! | indieBound | Powell’s

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Author Cole Gibsen

Author Cole Gibsen

About the Author
Cole Gibsen first realized she different when, in high school, she was still reading comic books while the other girls were reading fashion magazines.

It was her love of superheroes that first inspired her to pick up a pen.

Her favorite things to write about are ordinary girls who find themselves in extraordinary situations.

Where to Find Cole Gibsen
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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