When you live in a fishbowl, everything seems bigger, magnified, and no one was safe. People said that, in Pleasant Hills, everyone got their scandal. Fifteen minutes of infamy. I was to get more.
Sydney’s father, the only therapist in Pleasant Hills, has died. Sydney isn’t convinced her dad’s car accident was accidental. After all, he knew all of his clients’ secrets and maybe one of those secrets got him killed. And why was June Copeland, golden girl of Pleasant Hills, at his funeral?
The November of my junior year became permanently etched into my mind as the first month of June.
Told in a strangely beautiful way, this is a story about a grief that’s so pervasive it feels like it could eat you alive, fear so tangible it may choke you if you don’t find a way to escape or confront it, and obsession disguised as love.
Abstract is scarier than physical. Unknown is scarier than known – not because of what it is, but because of all the things it could be.
With the heightened drama of adolescence and undercurrents of potential danger and ongoing mystery, I found myself hooked from the first page and wished on more than one occasion that it was socially acceptable to highlight my library book.
June convinced me that we were all open books if only we found the right person to read us.
I was caught up in Sydney’s grief and loneliness from the beginning and liked her, even when she was being a crappy friend, because she was so relatable. I could easily imagine someone thinking and feeling the way she did, and I respected that her grief wasn’t pretty and contained. Her strengths and quirks felt authentic.
I adored Leo and wish I could have gotten to know him better. For a while it seemed like he would get the page time he deserved but gradually he began to feel like he was only there to provide Sydney with a specific skill set.
I enjoyed the mystery surrounding June and liked her complexity but one thing she did that annoyed the hell out of me was, like, how often she, like, said, “like”, like that. I found her character fascinating but, honestly, each time she said “like” I wanted to claw her eyes out. I did have some nostalgic “dude” moments with her though, offset by ‘wow, is “dude” back?’
I did pick up on a few clues early on that gave away some of the spoilery bits but that may be my life experience showing rather than an indication that this book was predictable.
I can’t believe a 22 year old wrote this! I didn’t even know who I was at 22 and here this woman is, writing a book that made me want to keep digging deeper into the lives of book friends I only met a few days ago. I’m definitely going to be looking out for this author’s next novel.
Content warnings include death of a parent, forced outing, bullying, self harm, homophobia, gaslighting, sexual assault, physical abuse, emotional abuse, suicide and mental health. I absolutely love it when an author has the sensitivity to provide content warnings for their novels. Savannah’s warnings can be found here.
Once Upon a Blurb
Sydney’s dad is the only psychiatrist for miles around their small Ohio town.
He is also unexpectedly dead.
Is Sydney crazy, or is it kind of weird that her dad-a guy whose entire job revolved around other peoples’ secrets-crashed alone, with no explanation?
And why is June Copeland, homecoming queen and the town’s golden child, at his funeral?
As the two girls grow closer in the wake of the accident, it’s clear that not everyone is happy about their new friendship.
But what is picture perfect June still hiding? And does Sydney even want to know?