Review: Sad Girls by Lang Leav

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📚 📚 📚  / 5

Book Title: Sad Girls

Author: Lang Leav

Date Published: 30/05/2017

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Number of Pages: 362

 

A horror story? Or a doomed romance? Lang Leav's 'Sad Girls' left me with more questions than it answered.

"School is almost out for Audrey, but the panic attacks are just beginning. Because Audrey told a lie and now her classmate, Ana, is dead. Just as her world begins to spin out of control, Audrey meets the enigmatic Rad—the boy who could turn it all around. But will their ill-timed romance drive her closer to the edge?"

Warning: There will be spoilers ahead. If you haven't read 'Sad Girls' yet, turn away now!

I began reading 'Sad Girls' after participating in the 'Try a Chapter' book tag. It was one of the five novels I decided to dip in to. I won't repeat what I said, but clearly, it drew me in. 

This is a book I was very sure about, coming in to it. By the time I reached the end, though, I was felt like I was left pretty deflated, and a little confused. Considering I'm not usually a fan of young adult novels, as a genre, I didn't find it  boring, or simplistic - in fact, I managed to race through it in no more than three long reading sessions - but when I actually stopped, and thought about what I had just read, everything seemed a lot more unclear than I had initially believed. Behind the beautiful language, and construction of the story, was a message I just couldn't decipher. 

The hardest thing to gauge, for me, was the author's intent. The purpose of the book. After sleeping on it, I ended up awarding it a very non-committal three stars, because I genuinely could not tell if it was a very well executed horror story, or a very poorly executed romance. Reading some sporadic interviews with Leav, I think she wanted it to be seen as a dark book, and one more about coming-of-age than of falling in love. 

I want to address Leav's claim that this is a 'coming-of-age' story. If this was a story about Audrey growing up, she didn't do much of it. It concerned me that Audrey's recovery was measured in material gains. Progress was all about the character's careers, about reaching new milestones. The lie Audrey told at the beginning of the book was awful, but not unforgivable. She had a lot to make up for, but we never saw her work for it. Every step she took was dependent on the opportunities that everyone else in her life could award her. It didn't feel like we were watching her grow up, because every good thing in her life was merely something she stumbled into, rather than having worked hard towards it. 

That being said, if Leav wanted this to be a "dark" novel, or a cautionary tale, I don't think it's very well-communicated at all. I think it had the potential to achieve all of those things, but the ending just completely threw it all into the water. Watching Audrey constantly fall back in love with Rad was like watching that scene in CW's 'Crazy Ex Girlfriend'; Rebecca is in her therapist's office, and she's finally almost getting better. It's on the tip of her tongue; she knows she needs to be alone, and she knows the relationship isn't healthy. But as soon as she's about the realise that, Josh comes in, and proposes. Everything is forgotten, and Rebecca is instantly back to her usual head-over-heels self. You end up left shouting at the screen alongside Rebecca's therapist. It's frustrating. And this book felt the same way. 

This was my main qualm with 'Sad Girls'. Its attitude towards love. It explores numerous relationships; romantic, friendly and familial, but most of them are incredibly unhealthy. As a book aimed towards younger women, the kind of impression that readers could take from this worries me. Are we supposed to see Audrey and Rad's relationship as romantic? Are we supposed to believe they're actually in love? And are we supposed to forgive Rad for what he did to Ana, just like Audrey did? The answer to these questions, for me, was always no, but I really cannot tell if that's what Leav wants us to take from it. 

One of the most troubling aspects, for me, was the relationship between Audrey and Rad; the novel's two main characters. At first, their relationship seems like any other run-of-the-mill teenage romance. There's nothing very special about it. They get along well, have a good rapport, and are very clearly physically attracted to each other. Every now and again, there's even some affection. But that's it. You can't get invested in their love, because it's not really there. 

And that was why I was so excited when Audrey moved away. It felt like she was actually making progress, getting away from all the toxicity of her old life. She met new, caring people, and her life seemed to become focused in a healthier way. This lasted for all of a few chapters. Before I knew it, she had undone all of that progress, and ricocheted right back to the same people, the same habits, and the same life she had before. 

And their relationship only got worse. You cannot love someone if your relationship is built on lies. Writing someone you claim to love a suicide note, because you broke up, is a emotional abuse. Hitting someone during an argument is physical abuse. And I was absolutely thrown by the implication that Audrey and Rad's actions towards Ana were in any way equatable. Spreading a rumour, and physically killing someone are not the same thing. 

In the end, Leav finishes the book with a note from Ana, who died at the beginning of the book. It's a really interesting, but also strange ending, that completely shifts the tone. Watching Audrey and Rad settle in L.A, and act like any other normal couple, is unsettling. And Ana's note just adds to that. She talks about how, when you really love someone, you'd do anything to protect them, no matter how much it messes up your moral compass. But that isn't love, it's obsession. You cannot fully love someone if you are sacrificing parts of yourself to do so. 

Have you read 'Sad Girls'? Let me know what you thought in the comments below, and whether you enjoyed it more than I did. If you haven't read it yet, will you still be picking it up?