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Life by Committee

Life by Committee

3.6 5
by Corey Ann Haydu

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Secret: I kissed someone else's boyfriend.
Assignment: Do it again.

Like most who find Life by Committee, Tabitha is a little lost. Her best friend has ditched her, her Vermont town is feeling way too small, and she's falling head over heels for a guy named Joe—who already has a girlfriend. Just when Tab is afraid she'll burst from keeping the


Secret: I kissed someone else's boyfriend.
Assignment: Do it again.

Like most who find Life by Committee, Tabitha is a little lost. Her best friend has ditched her, her Vermont town is feeling way too small, and she's falling head over heels for a guy named Joe—who already has a girlfriend. Just when Tab is afraid she'll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she discovers Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe.

Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she'd ever go on her own. But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go?

Perfect for fans of E. Lockhart and Jennifer E. Smith, Life by Committee is a fresh, vibrant novel about the power of wanting, the messiness of friendship, and the truths we hide and share.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Life has gotten weird for 16-year-old Tabitha. Her parents are expecting a baby and fighting about her father’s pot use; her best friend dumped her when a late puberty surge put Tabitha in the “hot” column; and she’s flirting with a guy who has a girlfriend. This is all happening in a small Vermont town where everyone knows everyone, and the whole school has a stake in the opposites-attract relationship between Joe, the jock Tabitha likes, and his girlfriend, an arty, sad-girl type. Then Tabitha discovers the website Life by Committee. Its anonymous members trade in secrets, and their M.O. is escalation: tell a secret, get an assignment, then repeat. Tabitha reveals that she kissed Joe, and her assignment is to do it again. Haydu (OCD Love Story) gets at the push-pull between wanting to keep and to divulge secrets, as well as the way that anatomy can feel like destiny. While the school-wide obsession with Joe’s girlfriend seems overstated, Haydu keeps a multi-strand plot moving, and the climax, a kind of 12-step meeting meets high-school assembly, is cathartic. Ages 14–up. Agent: Victoria Marini, Gelfman Schneider. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
Sixteen-year-old Tabitha has a secret. She kissed someone else's boyfriend, and she liked it. And with the encouragement of a secret, online committee, she just might do it again. Fans of Haydu's OCD Love Story (2013) will once again bear witness to a female protagonist hurling herself headfirst into a social train wreck of her own creation. Tabitha is an avid reader and gifted student whose burgeoning sexuality resulted in her two best friends' unceremoniously breaking up with her over the summer. It isn't helping either matters or her reputation now that she has a not-so-secret crush on a classmate's boyfriend. The lure of those forbidden feelings proves impossible to resist despite her conscience. When Tabitha discovers Life by Committee, an anonymous online community where members share their secrets and are given "assignments" designed to empower them to live big or go home, it becomes increasingly difficult for Tabitha to discern right from wrong. In this brave new world of social media, the story's premise makes for an intriguing, though at times incredibly uncomfortable, read. The online community comes across as cultlike, and it's hard to watch Tabitha's increasingly costly choices. For readers who can stomach the ride, it's a novel that will leave them thinking. Looking for a book to read and discuss? This is it. (Fiction. 14-18)
Sarah Ockler
“An authentic, heartfelt read about the power of truth and the beauty of self-discovery.”
Deb Caletti
“Life by Committee is a fun, smart, and moving read with every delicious ingredient-romance, secrets, and unexpected twists. Assignment: Read this one.”
Elizabeth Eulberg
“(Not so) Secret: I immediately fell in love with Corey Ann Haydu’s wonderful, fresh story about truth, love, and bravery. Your assignment: Read Life by Committee immediately!”
Terra Elan McVoy
“This book is brilliant, thrumming with honesty and surprising truths.”
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Tabitha has hit puberty, gaining new curves, and has gotten a little boy crazy. Her best friends, feeling she has changed too radically, have dropped her cold. Her young parents are sympathetic but also slightly embarrassing, especially her pot-smoking father. Searching for friendship, she stumbles onto an online community called Life by Committee that makes her feel brave and a part of something. LBC members share secrets and are given assignments by the group's leader, tasks they say will help one grow as a person. Tabitha's secret is that she kissed someone else's boyfriend. Her assignment is to kiss him again. The teen starts to wonder if performing these dares, even though they make her feel free-spirited, is any way to live her life. Haydu captures the wild emotions of adolescence: the surging hormones, the power of getting people to pay attention because of your body, and the confusion over how that makes you feel. The narrative includes plenty of current teen concerns: online safety, gay friends, first love and sexual experience, drugs, sibling jealousy, and school achievement pressure—all culminating in a final scene pulled straight from the movies. The message about being your own person and making your own choices can be a bit heavy-handed, but readers who are avidly involved in social media communities will relate to the thrill of confessing secrets to strangers, rather than friends and family.—Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Corey Ann Haydu is the author of three acclaimed novels for teens. This is her first book for younger readers. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her dog, Oscar, and is a graduate of the New School MFA program.

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Life by Committee 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
It isn't Tabitha's fault that her breasts are bigger now. It isn't her fault that she likes wearing makeup as much as she likes reading margin notes in used books. It isn't her fault that Joe seems to like talking to her more than he likes talking to his crazy-eccentric-special-snowflake girlfriend Sasha Cotton. But it might be Tabitha's fault when she kisses Joe. And when she does it again. Normally, Tabitha would so not be that girl. But with the help of a website called Life by Committee, Tabitha starts doing a lot of things she wouldn't normally do in the spirit of being more. At first sharing secrets and completing assignments to keep those secrets safe is easy. The assignments are empowering and push her limits. When Tabby becomes more involved in the site, and the stakes get much higher, she has to decide how far she is willing to go, and who she is willing to hurt, to be more in Life by Committee (2014) by Corey Ann Haydu. Life by Committee is Haydu's sophomore novel. Tabitha is a great heroine. She struggles with a lot of things throughout Life by Committee. Obviously, there is the morality issue with cheating. But Tabitha is also trying to understand her place in a world where the rules are constantly changing not because of anything she has done but simply because of how she looks. (And sometimes not even that in the case of her changing home life.) The way Tabby, through Haydu's prose, grapples with feminism and slut shaming and loneliness--problems she can't always articulate, or even give a proper name--is shattering. Tabitha is incredibly lonely, existing in what can only be called a friend vacuum at the start of the novel. She tries to reshape her life without the friends she had assumed were a given but it's hard. In the midst of that void, Tabitha stumbles upon Life by Committee. LBC is an anonymous online community where users share secrets and complete assignments (more like dares) in the name of being more and leading their best lives. The wisdom in joining such a site is, of course, debatable. But Haydu does such an excellent job of bringing Tabitha and her hurt to life that it makes sense. Readers begin to understand how Tabitha might become this person who is completely consumed by people she has never met. The great thing about Tabitha is that she knows exactly who she is and who she would like to be. When Tabitha gets involved with LBC, she starts to question a lot of the ideas she has about herself. Sometimes that leads to empowering moments. Unfortunately it also leads to some heart wrenching decisions that are so obviously Bad Ideas they become painful to read. Those choices, the power and allure of LBC, are hard to understand at times. Unless you remember being that lonely high school (or college) student trying to find your way. Unless you remember the thrill that can come with telling everything that matters to someone who will never meet you, never be able to really judge you. Life by Committee captures that heady mix of connection and anonymity found on the Internet so very well. Life by Committee also subtly highlights the pitfalls that can come from such a scenario. It's wonderful to have friends online saying "yes!" to every risk you want to take. But without the context that comes from knowing a person in real life, it's also difficult to ever adequately understand the consequences and the aftermath of those risks. At the end of Life by Committee it's safe to say that Tabitha comes out a little wiser and a lot stronger. Because this book is on the short side (304 pages hardcover) readers don't get to see all of the payoff after Tabitha realizes she can find her own way, all by herself, but the development is there. The growth and the hint at something more--LBC-inspired or not--is there in the final pages. Although she has her stumbling blocks, Tabitha remains a smart and capable heroine throughout. While she doesn't always make the best decisions, she always learns. And that, really, is all anyone can hope for. Life by Committee is a shrewd, clever read that raises all of the right questions for its characters and readers. Highly recommended. Possible Pairings: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg, To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker *A review copy of this book was acquired from the publisher at BEA 2014*
kimberlyfaye More than 1 year ago
Secret: I used to be more than a little addicted to PostSecret. As someone who's pretty forthcoming with her thoughts and feelings, I found it fascinating the stuff people hide... the good, the bad and the ugly. The blurb for Life by Committee reminded me a lot of PostSecret and I was really excited to read it. Ultimately, it fell short and I'm a little disappointed.  In a nutshell, Life by Committee just wasn't the book for me. The premise was interesting, but the execution was poor, in my opinion. My inability to connect with Tabitha made it difficult to enjoy any part of this book. She wasn't a very nice person, and was an even worse friend, but I never quite understood where rumors of her whoredom came from. She grew boobs and put on makeup so she was a slut? It's been a long time since I've been in high school, but that just seems ridiculous to me. I feel like part of the story was missing. Tabitha's parents were odd. It bothered me that she called them by their first names, but since they behaved like teenagers themselves, I guess it's not that much of a stretch. Tabitha's relationship with Joe just seemed wrong from the start. I'm not one of the people who judge a book on cheating alone, I like to get the whole story, but this was just bad. Despite the fact that he repeatedly told her he loved Sasha, she continued to go back to him and kiss on him when he felt like spending some time with her. How about having some self-respect?  The whole LBC part of the book was quite interesting, but there was a flaw in the execution for me. I just can't put my finger on exactly what it was, though. I think it was just that it was all too malicious. Zed was a little too much of a puppet master for my liking. It was creepy. The twist was one I didn't predict, but what followed was so cheesy and unbelievable that I wound up rolling my eyes at what should have been a meaningful part of the story and Tabitha's growth.  The one piece of the book I really enjoyed was Tabitha's active reading hobby and the way she collected old books that others had written notes in. I liked that a lot. It made me want to go into a used bookstore and search for these gems. That was a special little detail that added a lot to the book for me. I know it ultimately led Tabitha down a not-so-great path, but I loved the idea.  I didn't hate Life by Committee. I was just frustrated with it. What frustrated me most was the lack of feeling I had while reading it. I found that I honestly didn't care about what was going on, and after I was finished, I was still pretty ambivalent. It was a quick read and it did hold my attention, but that's more because I was curious to see how it all ended and not because I was particularly invested in any of the storyline. I won't say I'm exactly in the minority here, but there are people on both sides of the camp with this book. The only way to find out where you fall is to pick up a copy and try it out for yourself. If I were you, I'd check it out from the library or borrow it from a friend.  I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
Reading-is-My-Treasure More than 1 year ago
Life by Committee made me think. My thoughts tumbled over one another while I was reading and now I'm not quite sure where to begin. There's just so many things worth discussing and pointing out! THEMES First of all, there were the themes of courage and truth, as well as pushing yourself past boundaries and coming out behind a wall of secrets. There were also several other smaller themes that dealt with the affects of internet life on personal life, positive versus negative change, double standards, and the loneliness of keeping secrets. I can say so much, but I'm just going to tell you this: the themes and how they were developed and how they interacted with one another was my favorite part of the book! IDEA The idea of the Life by Committee (LBC) community was really different and intriguing. It was fascinating to see its affect on Tabitha's life. LBC went further and further, and it was a bit scary to see how much a hold it had on her. She went through so many changes--both good and bad--during her time in the committee. The final result of her experience with LBC was amazing and made for an empowering and a somewhat surprising ending. THE CHARACTERS Tabitha was a really good heroine! I tend to really like hard-to-like main characters when they make a lot of wrong choices but end up growing from the experience. I loved seeing the changes Tabith went through over the course of the book. I liked her parents. They seemed to grow as well, and their relationship with Tabitha had a big affect on the changes she went through. Elise was the best friend, and I wish I could have gotten to know her better. I really liked her character, though (which is why I wanted to know her more). Sasha . . . I both liked her and disliked her. For the majority of the book, I really did not like her--that was mainly due to the fact that Tabitha kept comparing herself to her. At the end, though . . . Sasha was alright. She had an important role in the story and grew a bit as well.  OVERALL Life by Committee took me by surprise. I had a feeling I would like it, but I had no idea that I would love it. It was such a creative, thought-provoking contemporary, and I highly recommend it to those of you who are looking for a book that would make you think. *I received a copy of this book for review purposes. This has not affected my opinion of the book in any way.
BlkosinerBookBlog More than 1 year ago
    I wanted to read this one because the cover and synopsis appealed to me. I wanted to know what the secrets were, how the love would develop, and more about this committee and what goes on with assignments.      Right away I caught on to the excitement of Tabitha and falling in love. It is an internet connection, but she knows him in real life. And then came my problem. Joe already has a girlfriend. But she admitted that she wasn't the kind of girl to kiss someone's boyfriend, but she had to say that she wanted to kiss him. I don't get why he is with his current girlfriend, and he seemed to have another personality at school and then seperate when he is chatting with Tab.      Tab's falling out with her childhood friends because "she was going in a different direction." Now they make mean comments or give her the cold shoulder, and not only are they at school with her, they also come to her family's cafe.      Her family dynamics are interesting. Her dad seems more like a big brother and her mom looks out for everyone. I like that he gets her "active reading" she has conversations and writes in her books and takes them to the used book store. She likes to find other people's notes to find out what they were thinking and feeling while reading. Her deep love of books and ability to feel and connect with the characters so much is what kept me so hooked.      Because even though there was chemistry and the time spent together, Joe is with Sasha... who has some depression issues. And even with that, its hard to let myself fall for someone who is cheating. What's to say he wouldn't get bored of Tab, and cheat on her? I could empathize with Tab because of raging hormones and the connection, feeling like someone else gets you, thinks you're smart, pretty, worth attention... well, its an addictive feeling. But to let it go on with him still with Sasha, she probably should have stepped away. But we all make bad decisions, and it lead to the plot and drama in her world.      But it just got harder and harder as she got deeper into the Life by Committee site, they have you share a secret and complete an assignment or they say your secrets aren't safe. At first she feels this big rush, that they are really making her life better, helping her make better choices. But she seems to be making more and more bad decisions, it feels like her family is starting to unravel, her dad smoking weed more and more, pregnant mom Cate stressing about raising this baby right, and word starts going around about Tab and Joe. Tab has confrontations with her ex-best friend Jemma, and Tab is still trying to understand what went wrong, and why she is alienated.      But then she hurts or pushes away childhood friend Devon as well as her only real life friend Elise. She makes other plans, or blurts her secrets, and she feels more and more alone. The assignments that once felt exhilerating just seem to be getting harder, and feel more wrong to her. She is trying to grasp at straws but the one person she connected most with on the site, Star goes silent at the moment where she is needing her the most.       It all clicks with her in a huge moment near the end of the book, and everything starts to fall into place, and the way she views herself and LBC site starts to shift. I was kinda expecting parts of the twist, but I couldn't put them into place fully myself before the reveal. The ending scene is hardcore powerful and I totally appreciate that sort of ending. I know that its highly unlikely, but I think that given the extreme motivation and Tab's actions, that its not outside the realm of possibility. I would just be curious to see if things and relationships at the school changed a week or a month out, knowing what they did.       But I especially liked how hope was sown in Tabs' family and that the strong bond that was tested with all of Tabs changes and the outing and pressure from the new baby.      Bottom Line: Follows Tab, whose like goes into hot mess territory before she realizes a new and different way to heal friendships, family and the right way to find her best life.
Lisa-LostInLiterature More than 1 year ago
I’ve been so conflicted on my thoughts about this book, so writing this review has been very time-consuming and, honestly, a little difficult. I keep going back and forth. I liked it. No, I really didn’t like it. Well, I kind of liked it. Parts were awesome and I didn’t want to put it down. Then I hated it. Yes, it was one of THOSE kinds of books. First let’s talk about the characters. We have Tabitha, who is all kinds of a hot mess. She’s hooking up with a guy she’s completely infatuated with who, by the way, has a girlfriend. (Cheating = angry Lisa) I don’t normally mind cheating in books. It’s a very real thing in our world. But seriously, she wasn’t even sorry about it. Not one bit. She would mention feeling bad, and then two seconds later was back at it again. I just didn’t believe Tabitha or really care for her at all. And the other characters were pretty similar. None of them really stole my heart or had a lasting impression on me. I finished this book a couple weeks ago and honestly can’t even remember most of their names at this point. I just didn’t feel these characters, as cliche as that may sound. The story line – well, it’s basically along the lines of a cult convincing people to ruin lives. It’s sad actually. I can see how these somewhat broke characters thrive on someone telling them what to do, forcing them to “live a little” and do things they normally would never have done. I’m sure it helps with their self esteem, confidence, etc. But really, the things they were doing were extremely hurtful at times and really affected others in a bad way. It just felt so cultish to me, having to do whatever you were told to do without a word. Kind of gave me the chills. Yes, Tabitha at times would consider her assignment and whether it would hurt others, but I just didn’t feel she was being realistic about it all and wasn’t taking into account others as much as she should have been. She seemed almost numb to it all at times. But even after saying all of that, there were parts of the story I really enjoyed. It did have a very realistic teenage vibe to it, which I do normally really like. Some of the situations the characters were placed in definitely had me remembering high school at its worst. It was harsh, and real, and at times a very accurate portrayal. Can you see why I’m having difficulty rating this book now?? >.< OH! And Tabitha's parents... *cringe* I get the whole new "modern and hip" parents in books thing, but really, Tabitha's parents were ridiculous! I'm not going to get into marijuana and it being legalized, etc., but I'm just not a fan of drug use in books in general, especially when the drug use is by the parents. That's just my personal preference. Her father was high more often than not, and her mother was snarky and mean most of the time. Two parents that I didn't find helping their daughter in this difficult time AT ALL. Something I REALLY liked in this book was the idea of writing notes in a book while reading it. They would take notes, draw pictures, etc., about the book they were reading, then pass the book on to someone else. I would love to read a book someone else read and see their thoughts written in the margins and little pictures they drew while reading it. The idea of that is so awesome to me! (At first I freaked out at the thought of WRITING in a book, since I'm a freak about the condition of my books... but I rationalized it with having a keeper copy that was perfect, and then writing in one to pass on to others.  :D ) One thing I'm still not sure I really understand is why Tabitha's friends stopped talking to her. She was friends with these girls, and now all of a sudden she's not anymore, and they're definitely bordering on Mean Girls at this point. They say and do really mean things. Tabitha is constantly saying how she misses her friends, etc., but what happened to make them be so mean to her now? I guess I missed it.... I THINK I enjoyed this book. I THINK it was more entertaining than not. I was so excited to read this book. It was one of my most anticipated reads this year. So maybe that's why I'm having difficulty. I guess I just expected more. But still, I can't say it was bad. It was well written and definitely had several redeeming qualities. Overall a middle-of-the-road book for me.