Life Unawareby Cole Gibsen
The Social Media Experiment by Cole Gibsen
On the surface, seventeen-year-old Reagan Fray appears to have everything. She's popular, Ivy League–bound, and her parents are rich enough to buy her whatever she wants. Behind the scenes, Reagan is a girl with an anxiety disorder struggling to hold the fraying threads of her life together. It takes work to stay
The Social Media Experiment by Cole Gibsen
On the surface, seventeen-year-old Reagan Fray appears to have everything. She's popular, Ivy League–bound, and her parents are rich enough to buy her whatever she wants. Behind the scenes, Reagan is a girl with an anxiety disorder struggling to hold the fraying threads of her life together. It takes work to stay on top, and when that fails, Reagan's learned from her politician mother that a little social espionage never hurts. That is, until the day Reagan finds all of her texts and private messages printed out and taped to every locker in her high school.
Finding herself ostracized from her friends and on the receiving end of the bullying she used to dish out, Reagan won't settle into her new role as social pariah without a fight. Determined to get back in with her friends and reclaim her social status before her mother finds out and sends her to boarding school, Reagan has no choice but to team up with outcast Nolan Letner.
But the closer Reagan gets to Nolan, the more she realizes all of her actions have consequences, and her future might be the biggest casualty of all.
Gr 10 Up—Popularity, Xanax, and the wrong friends turns Regan Flay's life completely upside down overnight. She is usually comfortable trying to "destroy" people who do not follow her lead—a trick she learns from her mother, a local congresswoman. Regan seemed to have her life together—student council, honor society—until one of her frenemies turns the tables on her and she succumbs to the same tricks she has used previously on other people. Not making the cheerleading team was only the beginning of Regan's downfall in this modern-day high school fairy tale. The teen finds an unlikely ally in her ex-best friend's outcast brother, Nolan, who has been burned by Regan's antics in the past. As he tries to help her see the fault in her old behavior, she becomes the lead in his school documentary aimed at helping Regan get her life back, completely unaware that she was originally cast as the production's villain. With plot twists and turns, this story showcases the aftereffects of bullying and the scars that are often left in its wake. Readers will find the expletive-heavy dialogue very realistic. Teens will appreciated the flawed, complex protagonist. VERDICT A definite purchase for most young adult collections.—Christina Pesiri, J. Fred Sparke Elementary School, Levittown, NY
The persecutor becomes the persecuted when personal texts and emails are leaked, outing Regan Flay as the scheming mean girl she really is.Life for Regan is about perfection at all costs. Following in her congresswoman mother's political ways, Regan selects friends based on their social value and activities by how they will look on her college application. She relies on caffeine to keep her going and Xanax to calm her down. When she is exposed, her friends disappear. Only Nolan, her best friend's irreverent brother, seems unperturbed by her social downfall. He suggests a way to salvage her reputation as well as do some good. Together, they film a documentary chronicling high school bullying and hatch a plan to build people up rather than tearing them down. By humanizing the mean girls, Gibsen complicates the familiar theme of bullying, revealing that everyone has something he or she would rather keep hidden. Secondary characters suffer from a too-heavy hand, however; Regan's mother might even give Cruella de Vil pause. While the dialogue is spot-on, the sheer volume of expletives will make this a hard sell for some. This well-intentioned story would have profited from a more delicate touch. (Fiction. 14-18)
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- 5.40(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.90(d)
- Age Range:
- 12 - 17 Years
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By Cole Gibsen, Liz Pelletier
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Cole Gibsen
All rights reserved.
Three months ago
The buzz of a cell phone jolted me out of a dreamless sleep. Frantic, I grabbed for it but knocked over my bottle of pills instead.
"Regan!" my mom shouted from the hallway. Her sharp voice dug into my brain like shards of glass. "I expect you sitting at the kitchen table in five minutes. We have things we need to discuss."
Awesome. Because on my list of fun things to do, lectures from my mother rated just below being stabbed in the eye with a fork. I gave up fumbling for the phone or the pills — I wasn't sure which one I needed more — and blinked at the ceiling until my room slid into focus. I couldn't have gotten more than four hours of sleep, judging by my zombielike reflexes. Not good. I couldn't let my mom get to me. It was too important of a day to be off my A game.
My phone buzzed again, and I managed to snatch it from the nightstand. A text from Payton screamed at me in all caps.
OMG DID YOU SEE CHRISTY HOLDER'S FB POST???!!!!
Christy was the captain of this year's varsity cheerleading squad. I could only assume, given the number of exclamation points in Payton's text, that Christy's post had something to do with the previous day's tryouts — the same tryouts I'd completely bombed when I fell ass-backward out of a full extension.
Nausea rolled through my stomach. I tried to focus on my phone as I scrolled through my Facebook updates. It only took a second to find Christy's post.
Tryouts were amazing, but due to the overwhelming number of girls hoping to make this year's squad, not everyone is going to make it. How will I choose?
I dropped my phone into my lap and chewed on my thumbnail. Would Christy cut me? I'd screwed up the extension, but she owed me. I'd gotten her into Jason Spear's party last spring. She'd remember that, wouldn't she? I needed to be on the squad, or I suspected my mom would kill me.
Pain lanced through my thoughts. I pulled my thumb from my mouth and stared at the blood beading along the jagged line where I'd chewed my nail to the quick. Again.
I grabbed a tissue from the box on the nightstand and wrapped it around my thumb. If my mom saw it, she'd add nail biting to her list of topics to cover every morning.
I hauled myself out of bed and across my room. Carrot, my childhood stuffed bunny, watched me from his place of honor on the shelf over my desk. His black button eyes seemed to stare at me with sympathy, as if saying, Remember when you were a kid and we lived in a house half this size? And even though the backyard was smaller than the driveway is now, we'd have the most fantastic adventures there. And the best part was that none of this stuff mattered — not cheerleading tryouts or student council, and especially not your mother's politics.
That was a lifetime ago, I told myself as I turned away. Everything was different back then — I was different. But now? I didn't have time to waste on wishes, memories, or stuffed toy rabbits. Nothing could change the fact that I was seventeen, and no matter how much I hated it, cheerleading, student council, and my mother's politics did matter.
Not making the cheerleading team wasn't an option — at least not according to my mom. And I hadn't worked so damn hard getting where I was only to lose it because of a stupid botched extension in tryouts.
I grabbed my phone off the down comforter. As any athlete would tell you, a team needed both a stellar offense and a stellar defense. Thanks to the lessons I'd learned from my politician mother, I was my own all-star team. First up, damage control.
I clicked on Christy's Facebook post and composed a quick comment.
Christy, you're such a fabulous captain, I'm sure whatever decision you make will be the right one. Here's to the best cheerleading squad this school's ever seen. Go Royals!
While the public suck-up post was a good start, it certainly wouldn't hurt my cause to send another, more personal message. Last month, Christy's boyfriend had cheated on her with a girl named Mia, who also just so happened to show up at tryouts with the same Gucci purse Christy had last year.
I found Christy in my phone's contacts and typed out a text.
Can you believe Mia showed up at tryouts? Saw her carrying what looked like your old Gucci purse. Poor Dumpster diver has to shop thrift for both purses and secondhand boyfriends. I say let the trash keep her trash. You're too good for that shit.
Christy responded a minute later with:
RIGHT? Thanks, girl. I can always count on you for a smile :)
I knew it was stupid, but my mother taught me to never underestimate the significance of flattery to put you on someone's good side. At the same time, I also knew the importance of a good offense, so I clicked back on Payton's text and added my other friend Amber to the conversation. My request was simple.
I NEED ALL THE DIRT YOU CAN GIVE ME ON CHRISTY HOLDER
Payton was the first to text back with:
You got it!
Amber responded a minute later with:
OMG Regan. A little early in the morning for a freak-out, isn't it?
I rolled my eyes and tossed my phone on the bed. I should have known Amber wouldn't understand. As the most popular girl in the school, she didn't have to work for anything. She also happened to be the co-captain of the squad. If I could find something to take Christy out of the picture, Amber would be captain. And as one of her best friends, of course I'd make the squad.
I let myself relax a bit. With Payton on the hunt for reputation-ruining information on Christy Holder, I was free to schedule my volunteer hours for Honor Society, formulate a plan for my student council campaign, get started on my pre-SAT studying, and —
"Regan. Time's up."
I flinched. My mother. Damn. I'd almost forgotten.
I dragged myself to my closet and slipped on my school uniform. It was a joke that the school thought requiring us to dress the same would promote some sort of equality among the students. What it really did was give us more creative ways to compete, like who had the best designer-label shoes or the most expensive jewelry — a title I was pretty sure I won thanks to the diamond necklace Daddy gave me for my sweet sixteen.
I fingered the necklace to make sure it was exactly where it should be — at the nape of my throat where everyone could see it. Next, I ran a brush through my hair, slid on a headband, and added a spritz of Marc Jacobs Daisy to my neck and wrists. I had just enough time to apply powder and mascara to cover up the dark circles under my eyes before my mom called for me again. My entire look was calculated to exert an air of perfectly sweet, all-American class.
I quickly zipped my makeup case and turned for the door. I knew better than to make her call me a fourth time. But as soon as I stepped into the hall, I paused. My pills. I scooped the pill bottle off my nightstand and zipped it inside my backpack. Technically, it was against the rules to carry prescription drugs in school. I didn't care. Every time I retrieved a pill from the school nurse, she emailed my parents, leading to unwanted attention from my mother, which brought more anxiety, more panic attacks, and the growth of an already-vicious cycle of stress. No one wanted that.
Besides, who knew? Maybe today would be the day the panic attacks stopped.
A vision of pigs flying had me smiling to myself when I entered the kitchen, but the moment I spotted my mother glaring at me from a chair at the table, the smile died on my lips. She wore one of her many suits tailored to fit snugly on her slender frame. Her hair was pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck, revealing the lines of her face — angles sharp enough to deflect any argument.
"Regan," she said coolly while motioning to the empty seat to her right. "Let's have a chat, shall we?"
"Where's Dad?" I asked, ignoring her question. He'd taken on the job of buffering my mother's assaults, and I wasn't about to suffer through this one without him. This morning, however, Dad wasn't sitting at his usual chair beside Mom. I glanced around the room and saw he wasn't at the coffeepot pouring a refill, either.
A look of annoyance flickered across her eyes. "Gone," she answered. "He had to perform an early-morning root canal. It's just you and me."
Her words echoed inside my head.
Just you and me.
I had no idea what my mother was about to say, but I knew one thing: somehow, I was letting her down. Anxiety wove through my body, pulling my muscles tight.
Recalling my doctor's instructions, I sucked in a deep breath, held it for the count of ten, and slowly exhaled until the coils wrapped around my body unwound.
She narrowed her eyes. "What are you doing? Why are you breathing like that?"
I didn't bother answering, because she knew exactly what I was doing. She drove me to my appointments and held hushed conversations with my doctor after I left the room. God forbid she acknowledge my stress. I mean, why would she when it was so much easier to play dumb than admit something was wrong with her daughter?
"I think I'll make myself a bowl of cereal," I said, faking pleasantness.
My mom reached for the purse looped on the back of her chair, withdrew a protein bar, and tossed it onto the table. "Regan, dear, you should be cautious with carbs. Girls with curves like yours walk a fine line between flattering and flabby."
I pressed my teeth together so hard my jaw ached. Still, I didn't move. The last thing I wanted to do was sit at the table with that woman. I had a better chance of making it out alive if I covered myself in blood and dove into a shark tank. "Coffee, then."
I turned for the pot and tried to remember that my mother wasn't always this critical. She'd given me Carrot, after all. I knew the political arena — the constant fear that your enemies would spot an opening — had changed her. In fact, I knew exactly how she felt, but that didn't make being her daughter any less stressful.
"I threw out all the coffee," she said.
I froze. Her tone implied she didn't know she'd just tossed a live grenade in our kitchen.
A spark of anger burned through me, and I embraced it. Besides my pills, anger was the one thing that effectively kept my panic attacks at bay. I bit out, "Why would you do that?" She knew I needed coffee in the morning more than air. Without that extra kick, I'd be lagging in first period, and I had an exam coming up. Was this some sick test to make me stronger?
She paused before replying. "Coffee stains teeth. It's campaign year, Regan. There will be commercials and interviews. We all need to look our best."
I turned to face her, folding my arms across my chest. "You're worried about my teeth?"
Her eyes narrowed. "Must I remind you that image is everything in politics? Do you want me to lose the next election?"
Actually, the last thing I wanted was for her to lose the election. Typically she spent half of every week in Washington, DC. The 791 miles separating her from our house in Illinois was the only thing keeping me sane. But come on. My damn teeth? At her insistence, I had them whitened on a regular basis, so I knew that was not the problem. And I needed that caffeine if I was going to stay on top ...
"I'm sorry," I said. "You're absolutely right. The economy is in shambles, people are out of work, but God forbid I have stained teeth."
Something almost resembling apologetic flickered in her eyes. "You know it's more than that. Your doctor says caffeine isn't good for your ... nerves."
I knew I shouldn't push it. That was as close to an I love you as I was ever going to get from her. Still, I couldn't help but add, "You mean my anxiety disorder?"
She lifted her chin and leveled me with her stare. "Sit, Regan."
Reluctantly, I trudged over to the table and dropped into the seat across from her. She motioned to the protein bar, and all I could think was, Mmmm, chocolate-covered cardboard, as I unpeeled the wrapper and dreamed about the cola I was going to grab from the vending machine at school.
I bit into the bar, but it took a minute to convince my throat I had actual food in my mouth and I should swallow instead of spitting it back out.
My mom watched me before shaking her head. "I just don't understand it, Regan. You're such a beautiful girl. Why won't you put more effort into your appearance? A little blush and lipstick would keep you from looking like you just rolled out of bed."
I frowned at her and kept chewing my cardboard. I had made an effort.
"Anyway" — she waved a hand dismissively — "that's a conversation for another day."
I swallowed hard. I can't wait.
"The real reason I want to talk to you," she continued, adjusting the small American flag pinned to her lapel, "is that with your senior year only a year away, we need to devise a game plan. This is your last chance to impress a college admissions board. Not to mention, with my upcoming election, the public will be watching, too."
I struggled to keep the protein bar from making an encore appearance. It was bad enough going down; I could only imagine how it would be coming back up. I swallowed several times before I was able to answer. "I actually already have a plan."
"Oh?" My mom quirked an eyebrow. "Please. The floor is yours."
I hated it when she talked to me like I was presenting a bill on the House floor rather than talking about my life. I fought to keep from rolling my eyes. "Well, I've been nominated to run for student council, so I'll have my own campaign to focus on."
"Wonderful." She smiled and laced her fingers together. "You simply must win. Student government looks fantastic on a college application."
"Right." There was little use pointing out the student body had to actually vote for me, and I had no say in the matter. "And I'm scheduling my service hours for school. I'll keep volunteering to walk horses at the stable, and I'll start serving dinners at the soup kitchen at church. And then there's cheerleading ..." Hopefully.
"Good." She hiked the purse strap over her shoulder. "I've got a plane to catch. I'll speak with your father tonight to make sure you stay on target. It wouldn't do to have things fall apart while I'm away."
And there it was. The ever-present threat of my failure ruining everything. The invisible straitjacket pulled so tightly around my ribs, my lungs ached. Despite my best effort, the panic attack was upon me.
She paused in the doorway long enough to give me one final warning. Her mouth moved, only I couldn't hear her words over the sound of my pulse pounding in my head.
Either my mom didn't notice or she didn't want to notice my trouble breathing, because she turned and left the moment her lips stopped moving. The second she was out of view, I grabbed my backpack and pulled out the small orange bottle. My shaking hands rattled the pills together. This was nothing new. I'd shaken it on so many occasions that a film of dust coated the interior.
Fear twisted through me — the same fear that always manifested during my panic attacks — that maybe I wouldn't make it through alive.
I knew it was a stupid thought. My doctor and therapist both explained countless times that no one could die from a panic attack. Still, I couldn't breathe — and you needed to breathe to live, right? I also assumed you needed your heart to not explode out of your chest. Yet both of those things appeared to be happening to me. But I'd survive. Somehow.
I always did.CHAPTER 2
I pulled into my assigned parking spot, slid out of my white Ford Escape, and shut the door behind me. Mom insisted our cars be American-made. "It's good for public image," she'd said when I asked for an Audi or something equally hot.
My phone chirped. A text from Payton.
I've got major dirt on Christy Holder. You're not going to believe it!
Perfect. Hopefully it was something I could use. After the texts I'd sent that morning, there was no way Christy would ever suspect me.
Excerpted from Life Unaware by Cole Gibsen, Liz Pelletier. Copyright © 2015 Cole Gibsen. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Cole Gibsen first realized she was 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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The realness of this book is uncanny. This story is about the class mean girl - think Regina George except without the Cool Mom and has Crazy Strict Mom. Regan is the classic mean girl trope: pretty, perfect, and a blonde cheerleader. Except she has a darker side to her: she suffers from panic attacks because her government mom demands too much from her. When all of the nasty texts that Regan has sent in the past are plastered throughout the school, things go from bad to even worse for Regan. Can she manage to salvage her damaged reputation before she has a full mental break? Truthfully, I wasn't expecting too much from this book. I hadn't heard about it before finding it on a book closeout website, and the summary honestly seemed like it could either way. Like a Mean Girls 2.0 or some intense soul-searching loveliness. Instead, what I found in this book was quite surprising and I found myself feeling things I wasn't expecting. There was a realness to this book that shocked me. Girls can be so vicious and cruel especially in high school, and I think it was interesting to see from a bully's point of view. You never know another person's demons and what drives them to do something and this showcases that perfectly. It was a way to show that it is true that every villain really does have a backstory and that everyone has a story - even the meanest people out there. How many people have sent out a nasty text, never expecting everyone to ever see it? This was definitely a wonderful way to show the consequences of actions in the real world, and I thought it was such a great teaching tool. tiana Five crowns but not quite a favorite - Tiana rating then! I've never had panic attacks or dealt with anxiety in the way that Regan has. However, it did seem very realistic to me how it was portrayed in this novel. The author didn't just give Regan a disorder to make her "damaged" but it really played into the novel the way it was supposed to. It was interesting to see just what this disorder can do to a person, and I felt so much for Regan. What was beautiful was the growth that Regan did and how she saw her flaws and was determined to fix them even though she didn't know how. Her thought processes while not perfect were honest and what real people go through. The relationship between her and Payton and Logan were wonderful and I truly connected with each of the very flawed characters. This was a very heart-felt story and I would definitely recommend. Check out more of my thoughts: https://bookprincessreviews.wordpress.com/
This book is extremely relatable. The main topic of the book is bullying, something that has become more prominent in schools. The main character, Regan is at the center of the bullying when every email, text and instant messages she ever sent gets printed and posted all over. Everything getting posted turns her "perfect" life upside down, Regan's life is anything but perfect. Regan suffers from anxiety but has to keep it a secret from everyone, so that her having anxiety doesn't ruin her mother's political career. Speaking of Regan's mother, I couldn't stand her for the majority of the book. I actually think that Regan's mother contributes to her anxiety by putting so much pressure on her, especially when it comes to cheerleading and being on student council. Regan loses everything at school, her reputation and her friends due to her private messages getting posted. After the incident, the only person that even talks to Regan is Nolan, her former best friend's brother. Regan and Nolan become really close, especially when Regan realizes that she needs to change. Regan feels that the best way to change is to apologize, and Nolan helps her do that by recording her apology. In the apology video, which is to be broadcast to the whole school, Regan reveals that she suffers from anxiety. I felt that when Regan revealed that she suffers from anxiety, it was a huge weight lifted off of her shoulders. After the apology video is filmed, Nolan, his sister Payton, his friend Blake and Regan are discussing the video and Blake offers to help edit it. Blake ends up going way too far when she edits the video. Things that shouldn't have gone in the video, end up in the video, pushing one student to a suicide attempt by overdosing on drugs. In the end, everything does end up getting resolved.
3.5 stars I've had the feeling for some time now that bullying is an epidemic in growing mode despite all the efforts that have been made in recent years to draw attention to the problem and effect a change. I suppose all the public notice has made some potential bulliers think twice which is a good thing, of course, but I do wonder if it seems more widespread because it really is or because more people---victims---are willing to come forward. I hope it's the latter. To keep any campaign like anti-bullying alive and fresh, we need to look for less obvious hooks and Ms. Gibsen has done just that by focusing on the bully rather than the victim. Understanding even just a little how a person becomes a bully can only help; perhaps such knowledge would help identify a potential bullier before she or he reaches that stage. It would be easy to demonize Regan for her behavior but that would not make the situation better. Truthfully, you could say she was destined to become this hateful person because she gets so much pressure from her mother to be the top dog in every way. She still has to take responsibility for her own actions, though, and she really doesn't do that very well, making it hard for me to have a lot of empathy for her at first. She grew on me as the pages turned and I began to see her as a girl who wants to be a better person and who's willing to finally reach out to the one person who might be able to help her get there (although he does make a monster of a mistake). There are two essential messages in Life Unaware: (1) bullying in any form is a bad thing that needs to be stopped and (2) redemption is possible. Both are messages we all need to heed, especially middle grade and high school kids who are the most vulnerable to being the bully or the bullied. Cole Gibsen has crafted a story that focuses on both quite nicely.
I am quite a bit older than the target audience for this and pretty good at guessing the endings of mysteries, so I could predict most of the twists in the book before they were revealed. And guess what? That did not detract from my enjoyment of this book whatsoever. In a way, it added another level to the reading experience, like when your friend tells you "I think I'm going to get back together with my ex" and in your head you're thinking "That is going to end so badly." And you don't want your friend to get hurt but you're powerless to prevent her from doing what she wants to do--all you can do is watch the inevitable train collision from a distance, wincing as the crash grows closer and closer. This book is the story of how gossip and bullying can destroy people, both the people talking trash and their victims. We all do terrible things sometimes. Whether you're 13 or 113, I'm sure you've made the occasionally catty or snide remark because you were cranky or jealous or trying to feel a little bit better about yourself. Maybe you thought your remark was completely justified because you yourself had been hurt. This book examines all levels of bullying, from making a mean comment behind someone's back to systematically trying to destroy their lives, and it does it in a way that doesn't feel heavy-handed because it just feels so real. This story should be on the shelves of every bookstore and library, because it will save lives--both literally and metaphorically--if it gets into the right hands at the right times.
I absolutely loved this book. Life Unaware is an emotional roller coaster and packs one hell of a punch, don’t underestimate teenagers – they are terrifying little beasts on the inside. This is one of the first books I have read that really captures what it is like to go to high school, it’s not all happiness and singing – it’s horrible, terrifying, and it kicks your butt for four years. Flay herself says that “the weak don’t survive high school”, and she is right. I would leave this book for ages fifteen or older because of the subject matter, but I still think everyone needs to read it. I can’t wait to see what other books Gibsen turns out, this one was absolutely breathtaking. Full Review: http://reedsreadsreview.com/2015/09/03/life-unaware-original-pub-date-050615/
Whenever I finish a book that I feel really passionate about, it's bittersweet. On the one hand, I'm happy to have had the experience, but on the other hand, I'm sad it's over. And then I want everyone to read it, too, so the awesomeness can be shared. That's what makes reading as essential to me as breathing, and that's what Life Unaware has given me. Now that I'm finished, I want to spread its awesomeness. Life Unaware tackles the topic of bullying - done not only in person but also on social media. There's a moment when Regan discovers a Facebook page where people can write nasty things about her, it was devastating not only for her but for me as well as a parent. It would be one of my worst nightmares if the things that had been done to Regan were done to one of my kids. And it was devastating that Regan's own mother, who to me is supposed to protect and love her daughter, shared a large portion of the bullying, just in a subtler form. It saddened me when only a couple of adults recognized something major was going on with Regan, but even they didn't really do anything about it. They didn't delve far enough in besides asking if she was okay, and of course she said she was even though she was anything but. I found myself liking Regan even though I know I wouldn't have if I were in high school with her. I think she had a poor role model in her mother, and having an anxiety disorder is hard enough without the pressure from her mom and the fact that high school can be hell. It really is a battlefield. Nolan became a light in Regan's life - not as a knight in shining armor kind of way but as a beacon of hope. I really liked how their relationship unfolded and took its time developing. Nolan had secrets of his own, too, and I was impatient to find out what those were. I think Life Unaware is a book every teen and every parent should read. I couldn't put this book down - I read it in one night and lost a lot of sleep, but it was worth it. Definitely. Tackling bullying and psychological disorders in one novel was a huge undertaking, but Gibsen nailed it. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
When I first started reading this book I wasn't really into it. But that happens to me in almost all books. This book had me surprised, sad, anxious, happy, and even mad. But overall this book made me rethink things about the people around me that I'm not aware of. It makes me want to help people. I really think people should read this book. Not only is it a good read but it can make you rethink things in a good way. Please read this book if you have time!!
I'll be perfectly honest: it took me a minute to get into Life Unaware. But once the story really started unfolding, I was hooked and couldn't put it down until I found out what the heck was going on! The main character, Regan, has a life that looks perfect from the outside. She goes to a private school where she gets good grades, is a shoe-in for the varsity cheerleading squad, is running for student government, and is Miss Popularity. However, no one sees the inside: Regan only strives for the cheerleading squad and student government because her mom demands it. She uses blackmail and rumors to stay on top of the social food chain because an anxiety disorder leaves her socially crippled. Then one day Regan's world comes toppling down. Someone has printed screen shots of her private texts and messages, where she planned vicious rumors to take down other girls at school. They've been distributed to everyone, and now they all know her two-faced moves. She's ostracized. She's cyberbullied. In other words: the bully has become the bullied. More brutal honesty: I had a lot of trouble connecting with or sympathizing with Regan. Yeah, she's under a lot of pressure from her mom (who is a congresswoman) and has an anxiety disorder... but she was also really cruel. The book opens with her asking her best friends for help finding "dirt" on another girl that Regan can use to manipulate her way onto the cheerleading squad. It was hard to resist cheering for karma. But as the book progressed, I felt more and more pity for Regan. I think that she's one of the more complex characters I've found in YA recently. She makes mistakes and does downright bad things, but she's more than that: she also cares a lot about her best friend, and really does want to please her mom. She's strong: she keeps going to school after the incident instead of playing sick and staying home. I don't want to give any spoilers, but she continues to grow stronger and stronger in her actions as the book progresses. Speaking of imperfect characters, I loved how all the secondary characters are also complex and real. After the whole printing-of-the-private-messages fiasco, Nolan is the only person who will talk to Regan. The reader might think this is a typical white knight set-up, but it turns out Nolan has a secret of his own. He's not perfect either. And Regan's mom: she's really, really career driven, and kind of comes across as mean at the beginning of the book. But as Regan grows and matures and changes, so does her mom. I feel like that's pretty unique in a YA book, isn't it? That the parent grows over the course of the story? Overall, I think this book would be a great conversation-starter with teens about bullying and it's effects. Yeah, the ending wraps up a bit too neatly, but there definitely a few surprises to the plot to keep the reader interested.
I've been meaning to read a Cole Gibsen story since I first heard her personal story at the 2013 RT Convention in Kansas City. She's a remarkable woman and I really wanted to read her Katana series (now even more so), but you know how it is with time and TBR piles. *sigh* When I heard she had a standalone contemporary hitting the streets, I jumped at the chance to read it. You might already know this, but I have a thing for books about bullying. I don't have a sad story to tell, but something about these books hits me close to the heart. I read them and hope for character redemption. LIFE UNAWARE delivered on that. Mostly. Let me explain. We are first introduced to Regan Flay while she is doing some pretty horrendous acts of bullying. BOOM. I dislike her right away. Then the tables are turned and Regan is on the receiving end of the bullying. I KNOW I'm supposed to feel sorry for her, but....I never really did. It takes her some time, but Regan starts taking personal responsibility for her actions instead of blaming outside sources of stress on her behavior. It took longer than I had hoped, but I do feel like Regan redeemed herself with he help of a certain friend. I do think that a big reason I felt okay with Regan in the end has to do with the amount of frustration I felt for another character. I only have so much negativity I can feel and it was transferred between characters, lol. I was so worried about the end of this book, guys. There was a real possibility that it could have gone in a way that would have made Raging hulk Jen appear and smash all the little birdies on the nearest high wire. Having never read a Gibsen book, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'm happy to report that raging Hulk Jen was pacified and hugged my ereader when I got to THE END. Thank you, Cole. This book is one I would recommend even for middle school readers with the understanding that there is some crude language and references to sex. Any time we can show new teenagers that consequences of bullying is a win as far as I'm concerned.
3.5 stars Life Unaware appealed to me because of the bullying issue. I read another where it was from the stand point of the bullier and I did end up feeling for that person. And it sounds like I will end up understanding Regan. From the synopsis she does seem like someone easy to dislike but it also shows the backfire and the pressure that is too much for her from her mom. Not that there is ever any excuse for bullying other people, there are reasons, and sometimes those can be enough to bridge the gap with me reading to understand and hope for change in that person and the way that they treat others. Sure enough, I discover that Regan has an anxiety disorder, and her mom is a politician who seems concerned with image and public opinion than her daughter's happiness. She puts a lot of pressure and Regan is stretched with grades, cheerleading, volunteering. She is trying to juggle getting on everyone's good side, and that is where the nasty texts come from. She will talk about one person in order to gain their approval. Then she'll suck up to the person the texts were about. It really is fairly typical teen behavior, she is just the one that got caught. The fallout though is intense. Everyone jumps on the band wagon and ostracizes her. This only compounds her anxiety and she is taking her pills and going to the nurse office really often. As the synopsis mentions, Nolan, another outcast takes a new interest in her. They have chemistry but they also have the like/hate/lust thing going for them. They never really crossed social paths much besides him being the "weirdo" brother of Regan's friend. He talks to her, teases (in good natured way) and I speculated early that he's had a crush on her for a while and just now able to talk to her. Another thought was maybe he understood the pain of being on the outside and he wanted to be there in the way that he knew how. It comes out that some of the girls who printed the texts and started the cyber portion on facebook were hiding things of their own. They felt like at any moment their secret could be exposed and were afraid of the fall out. Like I said earlier, nothing excuses bullying, but so often there is a lot of pain or insecurity on both sides. I liked the growth in Regan, when she has to face some of the people her texts targeted. She said she didn't really have anything against it, just writing without thinking and never planned for it to be seen. In apologizing and seeing other's pain, she realizes how she effected others. She didn't want to be an object of fear, and she realized just how much she was faking things. So I love the idea that Nolan and Regan had in order to get her apology and convey other stuff she'd seen issue with and wanted to try to repair. I also had a pretty good idea before it came out what went on with Nolan and his ex Jordan, but it was an interesting angle, giving him more depth to me as well as the reasoning for being so understanding. I also liked how the friendship with her and Payton eventually she remembered the kind of person that Regan really was. She needed time to cool off, and reassurances, but I was happy to see that she was big enough to admit she was wrong and stand by her friend. One of my favorite moments and quotes was when Regan thought "I only hoped that she would get to stop pretending and live her life how she wanted. Each time I forced myself into the mold of what my mother wanted me to be, I felt myself break. If she kept up her act forever, it would only be a matter of time before the broken pieces of her real self were too small to ever be put back together. I didn't know what happened to people when they were unfixable. I only hoped I never had to find out." Now, most of the book seems pretty realisitic in regards to mental illness, but I did have an issue when she made the "decision" to stop hiding behind the pills, and made them seem all of the sudden not necessary. Now, yes, I will say that with meds like that you can be dependent and use them as a crutch, but there are people and times when you can't just decide, hey I don't need to take my anxiety/ depression/psych meds because that can lead to serious spirals. Just so that is clear, and it didn't when she finally admitted to others besides adults about her anxiety disorder and the panic meds. The ending managed to get my attention and I liked how things wrapped up. The romance continued to be sweet, but they did have a pretty big challenge to overcome. I also liked how it went down regarding the friendships regained or new ones because of her idea. Bottom Line: Worthwhile contemporary, giving a new twist on the issue of bullying.
This book is pure genius, there's no other word for it. Okay sure, I can also tell you that it's pretty darn amazing, but most importantly, it's genius. Bullying is a tough and serious topic, so I'm really amazed in how well it was approached by the author. Life Unaware, instead of being a book focused solely on a person being bullied, shows us the point of view of the bully, and how it comes back to get her. So Regan Flay was a bully, but she wasn't actually a bad person. Between trying to hide her anxiety disorder from everyone and of being under all the pressure of what her mother wants her to do, she falls into the wrong of talking trash about other people behind their backs. However, after getting discovered, everyone in High School start bullying her back. Now Regan is struggling to survive school without falling into panic attacks and even worse, trying not to give in to the temptation of looking for the easiest ways out. I really felt bad for Regan. I know she did wrong and there's no justifying her actions, but I didn't have it in me to dislike her. She turned into a really nice person after she stops trying to be that person who hurts people to get what she thinks she wants, and I felt proud of her for trying to keep it together, and of trying to prove to herself that she's not all bad. They say that the first (and hardest) step of curing a problem is admitting YOU have a problem, and that's what she does. One thing I wasn't expecting about this book due to its main plot, was that I would be grinning and laughing a lot. It was a nice surprise and I liked that it was written this way. It showed that even in the darkest and toughest of hours, there will always be a bright spot. Our bright spot was Nolan, Regans' best friend's brother. His upbeat personality was the reason why our main character didn't fall into the pit of depression and managed to get stronger (this after she started tolerating him) . Nolan is so likeable, he made me laugh plenty and I can't ignore his great and swoonish lines, but I still feel like smacking him *shakes fist*. So glad things ended the way they did. It was FAIR, and surprising. Life Unaware can be considered a light read in comparison to other books about bullying, but it's worth gold and it has a tremendous lasting impression. It made me cry and it even changed my view of some things. Personally, it reminded me that I should be more careful when speaking about people. I don't mean that I talk trash about my friends or strangers, but even a few comments meant only as a joke can really hurt them and I don't want to ever make that mistake. Hand out more compliments and tell people how special they are is what I must do, what everyone must do more often, just like in this book (and now I understand Entangled Teen's giveaway about this book, way to go!). Now I know this book deserves a better review, but this is all I managed to get out after hours of staring at my screen. So sorry book, you are great, trust me. Words failed me to describe how wonderful you are and how much I loved all of you <3. To end it all off, all I have left to say is that if you are someone interested on bullying, of trying to get anyone to learn more about it and of its consequences, I highly recommend Life Unaware.
“Life Unaware” is a book that centers on the effects of bullying and social media. To me, it had the potential to be something really amazing, but fell short. The story itself didn’t seem to progress anywhere and at times lost my full attention. I thought the novel would really focus on the main character developing as a person and learning from her mistakes. While she did in some aspects, I felt like her change didn’t seem really realistic to me. I also didn’t connect well with her situation and didn’t sympathize. The entire situation was brought upon by herself, though that is absolutely no excuse for bullying. I also felt like the contemporary romance that was sprinkled throughout was unnecessary at times. My largest problem with “Life Unaware” was the extreme unnecessary amount of swearing. Now I am no saint, at times I can cuss like a sailor, however there is a time and a reason to use swearing in a novel and those were not situations that needed cussing. I understand the setting is a private Catholic high school and it is natural to believe teenagers swear like no tomorrow, but we don’t. As a high school who attends a public high school and has been exposed to private Catholic school, teenagers do not swear as much as presented throughout the novel. To me, it seemed like every other sentence had the f bomb. Despite all of this, the novel over all was pretty enjoyable. I powered through the book to see how it would end and how each of the characters would develop.
*I received an eARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.* I really enjoyed Cole Gibsen’s writing. The narration has a strong voice and the prose is very contemporary and well-written. I couldn’t put it down. Realistic and honest, Life Unaware certainly did not sugarcoat the ugly truth of bullying. At first, I was disgusted by what a two-faced girl Regan was. But as I read on and saw the story through Regan’s eyes, I couldn’t help but pity her. She had too much pressure on her shoulders, what with the constant nagging of her political mother and her “need” to stay at the top of the social ladder. Her anxiety disorder certainly didn’t help things. While it doesn’t excuse the horrible things she said and did, I easily sympathized with Regan. She was so lost and alone. It also didn’t hurt that she knew how to be humble and apologize for her mistakes. As for the romance department, Nolan and Regan’s pairing was pretty cute and swoony, I loved their bickering and quarrels. There’s absolutely no insta-love here. In fact, they were enemies first before they really knew each other. It was kinda frustrating though, because of the secrets and lies surrounding their relationship. Looking at you, Nolan! Speaking of Nolan, I really liked him a lot. He’s funny and sarcastic and smart. He’s also kind and stood up for Regan when she was abandoned by her friends and was being bullied. Heck, he was the only person at school talking to her when she became the school pariah. I thought Nolan Letner was freaking perfect. UNTIL Regan discovered what Nolan did. I was really disappointed and pissed at him that I wanted to pull him out of the pages and strangle him. What a user! Although in his defense, Nolan acted out of anger and a need for justice. But still! I really liked that Regan had the good sense not to forgive him immediately. I’m not saying that what he did was unforgivable. I just like that she wasn’t that girl who would throw herself blindly at some guy and forgive his mistakes just because she likes him. Life Unaware was pretty intense, too. It wasn’t just Regan’s story, but it depicts how cruel high school can be. What I liked about this book is that it showed both the sides of the bully and the victim. That sometimes, the bullies are victims, too, and they’re also suffering from their personal issues. And no, neither I nor this book tolerates bullying. It’s still a horrible and cowardly act. But Life Unaware conveys a very important message that we should try to look past the surface and see what’s underneath and not be too quick to judge. Just like what We Were Liars said, “Be a little kinder than you have to.” It’s also a good point that it wasn’t just Regan who went through character development. Even Nolan, Regan’s mom and, hopefully, Amber all learned something and were trying to change for the better. Regan and Nolan’s project also inspired change among the other students. And I think that project is a unique and remarkable advocacy. All is well, in the end.
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Entangled Publishing, LLC and NetGalley.) “I had no idea that I was… destroying people.” This was a really good story, about one girl and how her bullying ways backfired on her. “It all started with a text.” I liked Regan, although she really did say some nasty things about people at the start of the book. I did feel like she was only saying nasty things because she herself felt insecure, but that didn’t stop her words from hurting people. “Regan Flay should just do the world a favour and kill herself.” The storyline in this was pretty good, although I did feel really sorry for Regan and what she was going through. It seemed quite unfair that she was the only one singled out, when other people had been just as guilty as she was. “Here’s what Regan Flay thinks about you.” There was some romance, although I did find it awfully predictable. I guessed really early on who the love interest was going to be, even when Regan claimed to not like him. “Welcome to the other side, Flay. You won’t last a week.” The ending to this was okay, although it wasn’t my favourite part of the book. Everything seemed to end reasonably happy though. 7.5 out of 10.
Nowadays, it seems like every other day we hop on social media to see another story about a teen being bullied. It may be a headline for a news article, or it may be a post by a friend, concerned over how their child is being treated. Either way, when you think it should be getting better, that as a whole we should be getting a grip on bullying, it just feels like nobody's listening because it keeps escalating. What makes this story so much different is that it's about the bully. It's about how that bully originated, formed and how their world came crashing down around them, how they had their words. This is also a story about how even a bully needs someone. How being that one positive reinforcement around them can help bring on change. How one person can help pick up the pieces and keep a person moving, even when all they want to do is pull the covers over their head and bit ado to it all. It also shows how someone going through a tough time needs someone to help them get through it, no matter who they are. This story resonates with our world today. Every teen should pick this up and read it. They need to understand that words do hurt, that words and actions don't heal with a simple sorry. Parents need to realize how certain things they do bully their child and in turn make them a bully themselves. Teens are going through so much and now we've added that layer of social media. You don't think it will happen to your child, but it just takes a spark nowadays to set the flames leaping at them.