Promise Me Something

Promise Me Something

4.5 6
by Sara Kocek

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Reyna Fey's plan at her new school is to keep her head down--until Olive Barton notices her. Even though Olive is ostracized there's something about her that Reyna can't help but like. When she learns Olive's secret, she must decide whether it's better to be good friends with an outcast or fake friends with the popular girls.


Reyna Fey's plan at her new school is to keep her head down--until Olive Barton notices her. Even though Olive is ostracized there's something about her that Reyna can't help but like. When she learns Olive's secret, she must decide whether it's better to be good friends with an outcast or fake friends with the popular girls.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When Reyna Fey’s house is redistricted, it means she’ll be starting high school at Belltown High, while all her friends will attend nearby Ridgeway. Seven years earlier, Reyna’s mother was killed by a drunk driver, and a recent car accident nearly did the same to her father, so Reyna is angry and scared when blunt, bossy, and painfully unpopular Olive Barton bounds into her life. “You’re the only person in this school who needs a friend as much as me,” Olive tells Reina, who can’t exactly disagree. They begin a tentative friendship, but Olive doesn’t fit in with Reyna’s increasingly distant friends from middle school, and when Olive shares a deeply held secret about herself, Reyna’s reaction, born in part out of her own conservative upbringing, has potentially devastating consequences. Kocek’s hard-hitting first novel offers smart dialogue, sharp descriptions, and a plot that unfolds in unexpected ways, as she explores the destructive power of casual, everyday homophobia, especially in a claustrophobic high school environment where adults and students are content to look the other way. Ages 13–up. Agent: Logan Garrison, Gernert Company. (Sept.)
VOYA - Kim Carter
School redistricting results in Reyna Fey attending a different high school from her lifelong friends, wondering if she will be able to make new friends. When Olive Barton from Mr. Murphy's history class initiates conversation, Reyna is both relieved and uncertain, since it is clear that Olive is not exactly popular. Only occasionally rising to the bait of the constant teasing and harassment directed at her, primarily from popular classmate Gretchen, Olive stands her ground, exhorting Reyna to "follow your better nature." As they work on school projects together, Reyna comes to know Olive better, from her alcoholic mother to her runaway friend Grace hiding out in the Barton's tool shed, but when Olive shares more information than Reyna is comfortable with, Reyna abruptly ends their friendship. Reyna's unhappiness with her father's growing commitment to his girlfriend and her increasing distance from her longtime friends lead her to fall in with Gretchen's social circle, saying cruel things to Olive to keep her away. When tragic news comes of her once-friend's suicide on the train tracks, Reyna is plagued by guilt, until she ultimately finds her courage and acts on her "better nature." Promise Me Something tackles weighty issues of harassment, family dysfunction, suicide, and homophobia within the context of adolescent identity and friendship, while maintaining the focus of the story on characters whose complexity feels real and whose lives may be our own, our next door neighbor's, or our best friend's. This would be great for an afterschool book study group. Reviewer: Kim Carter
VOYA - Riley Carter
Reyna Fey is normally shy and keeps to herself. She does not mean to talk to Olive Barton, but there is something mysterious about her that Reyna wants to figure out. This reviewer's favorite part is when Reyna uncovers secrets about Olive and Olive's family, which ruins their friendship. When someone dies, Reyna's situation become more intense as she uncovers more secrets. Readers who are wrapped up in middle school drama will like this book, but there is mature language and the book deal with mature subjects that are not for young readers. The book is very detailed, and readers will connect to it because of the drama surrounding rumors, lying, and dating. Reviewer: Riley Carter, Teen Reviewer
Children's Literature - Krisan Murphy
A line drawn to divide a school district is the first domino to fall in the life of Reyna Fey. Reyna lost her mother in a car wreck years ago, and the nearly lost her dad in another car accident some years later. Now, she seems to be losing her dad to a woman who is pursuing him romantically. As the book opens, Reyna copes with the unbearable teenage angst that comes with being the new kid at school. Before she can even take a breath, the smart and quirky outcast named Olive attaches herself to Reyna. Be forewarned! This book is about homosexuality, suicide, bullying, cliques, and bias. This is a fast-moving read driven by plot and character. The bullying revolves around the terrible discrimination toward homosexuals by peers and a teacher. The teacher who bullies the gay student is portrayed as a Christian who “of course” hates homosexuals. This is an unfortunate stereotype which reduces the appeal of the story, which might otherwise ring true for some adolescent readers. Through the clever and outrageous maneuvers of Reyna (who has learned to stand up for herself and her friend) and her true friends, the cruel teacher gets his just reward. Both the real and imagined suicides that occur in this novel add suspense and provide a platform for discussion about this current social issue. Reviewer: Krisan Murphy AGERANGE: Ages 13 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Rude, pushy Olive chooses Reyna Fey as a friend, and Reyna, a new freshman separated from her middle-school friends, reluctantly accepts her friendship. In addition to adapting to a different school, Reyna is coping with her mother's death and her father's remarriage. Perhaps, it is her sadness that attracts complex Olive. Reyna also makes friends with a boy named, Levi. One night during a sleepover, Olive reveals that she is a lesbian. Reyna's association with her goes into a tailspin and she eventually befriends the popular girls in school, who torment Olive and other outcasts. Events unfold that challenge everything Reyna, a devote Catholic, believes in. With themes of homosexuality, teen suicide, and death, the book invites readers to ask themselves some difficult questions. The heavy themes are explored as gently as possible without glossing over uncomfortable situations. All of these elements, including a plot twist, make this book a better-than-average problem novel.—Mindy Whipple, West Jordan Library, UT
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-08-15
High school as crucible of character is a mainstay of teen fiction, but seldom have its dilemmas and dramas been so precisely re-created in all their brutal, claustrophobic intensity as in this debut: part morality play, part suspense tale. Reyna Fey begins freshman year under a cloud. Her friends attend the town's other high school. She still bears scars from the death of her mother, killed by a drunk driver; her father's girlfriend, Lucy, crashed his car, injuring him, yet they're closer than ever. When a smart, odd and prickly classmate befriends her, Reyna is conflicted. Olive's a social pariah, but her frankness and honesty attract shy Reyna, who keeps her own resentments under wraps, muffled by a conventional Roman Catholic upbringing. Observing a homophobic history teacher and discovering that Levi, the boy she's drawn to, has two mothers challenge Reyna's worldview but fail to dislodge her assumptions or overcome her longing to be included in the social wolf pack. Watching Reyna repeatedly abandon her better self to chase the ephemera of "normalcy" is gripping and agonizing. Olive--manipulative and rude--is no angel, but in high school's deceptive hall of mirrors, her honesty is as valuable as it is rare. Compelling, honest storytelling. (Fiction. 13 & up)
From the Publisher

"Kocek's hard-hitting first novel offers smart dialogue, sharp descriptions, and a plot that unfolds in unexpected ways, as she explores the destructive power of casual, everyday homophobia. . ." Publishers Weekly, July 19, 2013

"High school as crucible of character is a mainstay of teen fiction, but seldom have its dilemmas and dramas been so precisely re-created in all their brutal, claustrophobic intensity as in this debut: part morality play, part suspense tale. . . .Compelling, honest storytelling." Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2013

"The heavy themes are explored as gently as possible without glossing over uncomfortable situations. All of these elements, including a plot twist, make this book a better-than-average problem novel." School Library Journal, October 1, 2013

Product Details

Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
HL740L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Promise Me Something

By Sara Kocek


Copyright © 2013 Sara Kocek
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-4967-1


We moved en masse like a rain cloud, past the gray lockers and matching gray walls, past the boys' bathrooms by the stairs, past the wads of gum wedged in the hinges of the windows. Everybody coming from Mr. Murphy's history class had their tests in their hands—for me, my first test of high school. The crowd pressed in on us from all sides as we squeezed through the double doors and into the cafeteria. No matter what day of the week, it smelled like Sloppy Joes.

I unrolled my test to look again at the A+ on the top of the page, and that was when I heard the voice behind me. "Congratulations," it said, barely audible over the cafeteria roar. I turned around and saw the shy, mousy girl who sat behind me in History. Her face was thin and pale, half hidden by a curtain of dull blond hair. She was wearing a button-down yellow blouse and black tights under a plaid skirt. "You must have studied hard," she said, only her voice wasn't mousy at all. It was quiet and razor thin.

The crowd pressed us deeper into the room. We streamed past the vending machines toward the hot lunch station, where three women in hairnets served up the usual globules of organic matter that varied in appearance but not taste from day to day.

"I got a C," said the girl, now beside me. Her two front teeth tilted toward each other like they were afraid of the other teeth. "I'm Olive, by the way."

"Nice to meet you," I said, picking up a tray. It didn't take a genius to tell that Olive wasn't popular. On the totem pole of faces at Belltown High, hers was stacked somewhere just above the girl with the unibrow and the boy who wore sweater-vests every day.

"I don't know if you've noticed," she said, stepping closer to me and scooping corn onto her plate, "but we have two classes together. And homeroom."

I nodded, a flicker of hope in the pit of my stomach. Olive may have been dressed like a Sunday school teacher, but she was the first person all week to notice me. "English and History, right?" I asked, reaching for the slotted spoon. Friends were friends, popular or not.

"Yeah." She tucked a strand of stringy hair behind her ear and moved on to the mashed potatoes. "I've been trying to figure you out. Are you aloof because you're shy? Or are you aloof because you're a snob?"

"Aloof?" The little flame of hope extinguished itself.

"No offense."

"I'm not aloof." I turned around to see whether anybody in the lunch line was listening, but fortunately only a group of boys was standing behind us and they weren't paying attention.

"Then how come I never see you talking to anyone?" Olive asked, plucking a square of pepperoni pizza out of the tray. "It doesn't make sense. You look like a cheerleader."

In the shiny stainless steel pole holding up a rack of milk cartons, I watched my warped eyes blink. What did that even mean?

"My friends go to Ridgeway," I said at last, choosing a slice of pizza and sliding my tray toward the register. Ridgeway was Springdale's other high school, and it was usually referred to as "Richway" because of its special architecture program and carpeted hallways. Finding out that my house had been redistricted to Belltown High was one of my all-time worst memories of eighth grade.

"They all go there?" Olive dug around in her pocket while the lunch lady rang up her total. "It must suck not having any other friends."

"It's not like that," I said, looking around for an open spot to sit. Olive was turning out to be weirder than I thought. She wasn't anything like my Ridgeway friends.

"You want to sit together?" Olive asked. "I mean, unless you have other plans?"

"I kind of have to study," I lied, craning my neck to see whether there were any free spots at the homework table, where people sat silently and worked while they ate. No luck.

"Can't you study after school?" Olive asked. "Or will you be too busy hanging out with your Ridgeway friends?"

"We mainly see each other on weekends," I told her, glancing over at the corner of the cafeteria where the band kids sat. No spots there either.

"On weekends," Olive echoed. "I wonder how long that'll last."

We wound up at a table near the far left window, where the student teachers usually ate. Today it was empty, so Olive spread her stuff across one of the benches. I put my backpack down on the floor next to my feet and resigned myself to sitting with her.

"I've been meaning to ask you," she said, "what do you think of Ms. Mahoney? Did you see how she spelledcontroversy on the blackboard?"

Ms. Mahoney was our English teacher—straight out of college and new to the school. I liked her just fine except for the way she always forgot my name. "I think she's nice," I said.

"Well, I think she's an idiot." Olive took a swig from her Coke bottle. "What kind of English teacher can't spell controversy ? If she spells it wrong again, I swear to God I'm going to say something." She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "What?"


"No, what is it?" She put down her soda. "Tell me."

"It's nothing," I said again. "It's just—can you not swear to God around me?" I felt stupid as soon as I asked. I knew I shouldn't have phrased it as a question.

She laughed but then stopped at the expression on my face. "Wait, seriously?"

Why did people always think I was joking? I was tired of explaining myself. I put down my slice of pizza and said, "Seriously."

"Sorry." Olive straightened her face. "Are you Mormon?"

"Catholic," I said, taking a sip of chocolate milk. "What are you?"

She laughed. "Recovering Catholic."

Recovering from what? I wanted to ask, but I didn't get a chance. Out of nowhere, something thwacked me in the back. I whipped around, confused.

It was a banana. A banana in the hand of a cute boy in flip-flops, sprawled out on the floor behind me.

"Sorry," we said at the same time. Then I reached down and yanked my backpack out of the middle of the aisle, where he'd tripped over it. As I stuffed it under my seat to hide the evidence, he rose to his feet and brushed off his jeans. "Are you OK?" I asked, staring at his hair. It was coppery, the color of a brand new penny.

"Yeah, my fault," he said, grabbing the bruised banana and shoving it in his pocket, where it stuck out like an odd yellow handle. Only then did I recognize him. We had Gym together first period every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I was used to seeing him in long nylon shorts.

"Have we met?" he asked. "You look familiar."

"Yeah," I said. "In Gym." Around his neck hung a guitar pick on a leather string. It was twisted around, and I had the urge to reach over and turn it in the right direction.

"What's your name?"

"Levi," I said.

He laughed. "No that's my name."

Across the table, Olive snickered as I snapped back to life. "Reyna," I corrected myself, wishing she would shut up. "Reyna Fey."

"Rain-uh?" he repeated. "Like the weather?"

Olive let out an exaggerated snort.

Levi paid her no attention; he just looked at me like he was trying to figure me out. His eyes were warm and brown with little flecks of gold. After what felt like an eternity, he said, "Well, see you later, Rain-uh," and headed toward the double doors.

Olive pushed her Coke bottle toward me the minute he walked away. "You poor thing," she said. "You're bright red. Have a drink."

"What just happened?" I held the bottle to my forehead.

She laughed. "You acted like a moron and he thought it was cute."

A moron? I felt like crawling under the table and hiding there for the rest of the day. "It was something about his eyes," I said, slouching in my seat. "I just couldn't think."

"That much," she said in a sarcastic drone I would come to know well, "was obvious."

* * *

I probably shouldn't have walked with Olive to our next period after lunch since I wasn't sure I wanted to be friends with someone so judgmental. But she just kept talking after the bell rang, and it was hard to cut her off or break away. And when she followed me into the parking lot at the end of seventh period, I didn't stop her. To be honest, it was nice to have company, even if that company was so ... Olive-ish.

We sat together on the ledge of the stone wall in the parking lot while we waited for our rides, Olive quizzing me like I was filling out an application to be her friend. "So, you're religious, right?" she asked as soon as we sat down. Her fingers found a few loose pebbles and flicked them over the edge, one by one. "Don't tell me you're a Republican."

"I'm not," I said, wondering why she thought it was OK to say whatever popped into her head, no matter how rude. "But I'm not a Democrat either. I don't care about politics."

She frowned. "You should care."

I watched as an old, beat-up station wagon pulled into the driveway, passed the bus lane, and parked in a handi-capped spot.

"At least tell me you're pro-choice," she said, watching me intently. When I shrugged my shoulders, she threw her hands in the air and sighed. "I don't get it."


"Connecticut is a liberal state. We have Democratic senators. We have gay marriage. Yet, somehow, everybody in this school is Sarah Freaking Palin."

"I have to go," I said.

"See, that's exactly what I'm talking about. If you just walk away from every political debate without even trying to —"

"No, my dad's here," I said.

"Oh." She turned to look out across the parking lot, but I didn't point out my father's car. I didn't want her to see his face behind the windshield—still purple and bruised from the accident.

I hopped off the wall and as I turned toward Olive to say good-bye, she tossed a pebble that narrowly missed my ear. "Hey!" I blurted.

"Do me a favor and pass me my notebook?"

I stared at her in disbelief. What kind of person throws a pebble at someone's head? But she didn't even blink. Reluctantly I asked, "What notebook?"

Olive grinned. "The one where I write mean things about you."

Not funny. The more time I spent with Olive, the less I wanted to eat lunch with her again tomorrow. Then again, people at Belltown weren't exactly lining up to be my friends. A voice in my head whispered, beggars can't be choosers.

I crouched down and unzipped her backpack, fishing around for her notebook. I started to ask if I was looking in the right pocket but stopped when I saw it—a bloodred moleskin journal. The pages were so worn around the edges that I wondered whether she took it to bed with her at night to squeeze like a teddy bear.

"See it?" she asked.

"Yeah." I pulled it out. There was a stack of stapled papers underneath it—her history test, crumpled but visible, in the mouth of the backpack. It wasn't the test itself but the grade that gave me pause. Red marker stared me in the face: A+.

"Can you hand me a pen too?"

"Sure." I grabbed one from the front pouch and decided to ignore the grade. If she'd meant for me to see it, I had no idea why.

* * *

"Hi, kiddo." Dad looked more tired than usual, but his face was less puffy than it had been in weeks. His bruises from the accident had been fading all month from navy blue to purple to raspberry, and today they looked almost yellow. I pulled open the door and slipped into the seat as he turned the ignition. Once I buckled my seat belt, we pulled wordlessly out of the parking lot.

I wouldn't have minded a silent car ride—the stitches made it hard for Dad to speak—but as we turned left onto the main road, he opened his mouth and, with a lot of effort, asked who I'd been sitting with on the wall. "A new friend?" His voice was slurred from the disfiguration around his upper lip.

"Probably not," I answered.

"Come on." Dad was trying hard to enunciate. "Is she nice?"

I surprised myself by laughing. "Not really," I said. "She's weird and bossy."

Dad frowned with just one side of his mouth. "You've got to make new friends sooner or later, Reyna. Give her a chance."

We were driving north on Oakwood Avenue, Springdale's main artery. To our left was Durham Drive, where Abby, Leah, and Madison—my three best friends—lived in identical blue houses side by side; to our right was Hickory Ridge Road, where I'd lived since I was little in a house the color of a strawberry. Two roads, not a mile apart, rezoned for separate high schools that might as well have been on opposite sides of the universe.

"Guess what?" Dad said. "We're having pizza for dinner."

I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd eaten pizza for lunch. Ordering takeout was all he had the energy for these days.

"Is Lucy coming over to eat with us?" I asked. Lucy was the woman Dad was dating.

Dad adjusted the rearview mirror. "She's out of town."

"What?" I stared at him.

"She's out of town for a few days."

"No way," I said. "Again?"

"All of this has been hard on her." Dad gestured at the bruises on his face.

"It's been hard on you." I felt a lump gathering in my throat, felt the familiar swell. Dad glanced sideways at me and I turned my head quickly toward the window.

* * *

After dinner I felt sick. Greasy. Bloated. I'd eaten nothing but pizza for days. While Dad got settled on the couch in front of the TV, I headed to my room to "do homework," otherwise known as lying on the floor like a zombie.

Along the back wall of my room, Mom's old stuff lined my bookshelves. There was her tennis trophy, a hairbrush, a teddy bear she'd given me, her sewing machine, and, of course, her photograph. Taken on the day she graduated high school, it was browning in its turquoise frame. Turquoise was her favorite color, and one of my favorite things about the picture was how the frame matched the turquoise necklace she was wearing. I stared at the resemblance between us. I'd inherited her dark, bone-straight hair and deep-set brown eyes.

Next to the photograph was all her Catholic stuff. She had a string of rosary beads, three copies of the Bible, two crosses, and a tall silver chalice that belonged to my great- grandfather Francesco, who had been a priest in Spain. All of it had ended up in my room because Dad didn't like looking at it. After Mom died, he hated anything to do with God.

Everything on Mom's bookshelves had accumulated exactly seven years of dust. I cleaned the rest of my room every two weeks, vacuuming in the closet and wiping down the surface of my desk. But I never touched her shelves, and the room was dusty as a result. Perpetually cloudy, like living in a place where it always rained.

Thinking of Mom, my eyes grew watery. I didn't really miss her anymore—seven years had blunted the ache—but I missed remembering her. I used to be able to recall the exact color of her lipstick and the sound of her laugh and the names of all the saints she prayed to. Not anymore.

I needed to call Abby to take my mind off things. Still sprawled across my carpet, I pulled out my phone and called Abby's cell, but she didn't answer. I called again and got her voicemail. I went back to staring at the ceiling before hoisting myself up to get on my laptop to see if Madison or Leah were online.

Madison was.

Hey Maddy, I typed.

Hey!!!!! she wrote back almost instantly. What's up?

A new instant message popped up. Reyna! It was from Abby. She had her status set to invisible, probably trying to hide from another boy with a crush on her.

Where are you? I tried calling you, I replied to Abby.

I'm with Madison. Hold on a sec. My phone was on silent. I'll start a group chat.

I wanted to vent about making a fool of myself in the cafeteria, but not with Madison there. She had a habit of making herself the center of every conversation. Plus, there was something weird about the three of us having a group chat when the two of them were together without me.

Madison wrote, So, are you sleeping over tomorrow?

I wish. Lucy's out of town, I replied.

That sucks, Abby typed and added a picture of a sad-looking puppy. You shouldn't have to baby-sit your dad.

My fingers hovered over my keyboard trying to think of a reply, but two more IM blips interrupted me. OH MY GOD!!!! Madison typed. One sec.

What's going on? I wrote back, but there was no answer. Whatever was happening—whatever they were talking about in her room—it was obviously too interesting to waste time typing about. Once again, I was out of the loop.


Excerpted from Promise Me Something by Sara Kocek. Copyright © 2013 Sara Kocek. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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

Sara Kocek received her BA in English from Yale University and her MFA in Creative Writing from New York University, where she taught fiction and poetry to undergraduates. A freelance editor and college essay coach, Sara has served as the Program Director at the Writers' League of Texas, a literary nonprofit. She lives in Austin, Texas, and enjoys "Keeping Austin Weird" with her husband and daughter. This is her first book.

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Promise Me Something 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just for starters let me say that despite having to be up at 7AM with the one-year-old, once I started reading this around midnight, I didn't put it down until I finished. The next morning hurt. Worth it. What I liked: Tim, for starters. He ended up being one of my favorite characters. I would have loved to see Reyna become friends with him earlier in the book. As is, it felt like she was using him to a certain extent, and I would have liked to see their relationship grow more gradually. I liked and wanted more denouement where Reyna's feelings of guilt were concerned. I think survivor's guilt and self-blame is a huge factor when teens' friends attempt or commit suicide. And I would have liked more "on-screen" resolution as far as that went. But that's the therapist in me more than the reader. I also dug the way the subject matter was handled. I felt that Reyna's reactions to the sexual identity issues that came into play were very authentic and courageous on the author's part, though I did not always follow her thought process. What I loved: First and foremost, the characters. I loved Reyna's journey as far as identifying the values and characteristics she wanted in people she called friends. I liked that none of the characters were cookie-cutter-cliches. Even the minor players were multi-faceted. I especially felt that Reyna was a very tangible and sympathetic MC, and I enjoyed reading her story. As a mom and a therapist, I felt that Kocek did a great job of confronting the realities of suicidal ideation in one's friends without crossing the line into preaching. And I think it's super important that the book addressed the legal consequences of some of Olive's choices. That's not something I've seen done much in YA and I was glad to see it here. And while I wasn't surprised at the plot twists, I think that's writer and adult bias that won't apply to much of Kocek's target audience. Finally, I loved that Reyna's values were portrayed in a way that was fair and allowed her to be a character either side of the aisle could rally behind. I think when we see conservative/moderate teens in YA, they tend to be portrayed in an extremist way that isn't an accurate reflection of these youth. And I loved that part of Reyna's journey included a though exploration of her own belief system. What I wanted more of: WARNING SECTION CONTAINS SPOILERS I felt like it was too convenient for Levi's parents to be gay. I also think his perspective would have made more impact were that not the case. Instead, it almost seems like the only people who empathize with gay kids in this read are other gay teens and teens with gay parents. That probably was true about five to ten years ago, but that's not my experience with the teens I see at work. I wasn't crazy about the way things were resolved between Reyna and her parents. My reading left the impression that Reyna's dad and would-be-stepmom were right about everything and Reyna's feelings were invalid, which I found to be both unrealistic and inaccurate. For me, the better ending would have been one without resolution. Sometimes our parents do things we don't understand, things that feel really unfair, and we don't have to agree with them or apologize for our feelings. We just have to learn how to deal. I wanted more resolution where the besties were concerned. Not externally with the girls themselves so much as within Reyna. It felt, for me, like a loose end. I wanted to be in Reyna's head a little more where the sexual identity issues were concerned. Like I said before, I loved that we saw a character arc that included her questioning and identifying her own moral code. But I feel like, particularly in a late Middle Grade or young YA book, that sexual identity is a major developmental issue, and I would have liked to see Reyna's cognitive dissonance regarding the conflict between her faith and her friends' sexual identity. Despite Olive confronting her on the matter, I didn't feel like we experienced Reyna's thought process enough there. Short story long: I really loved this book. I think the perspective is original, the characters are complex and engaging, and the plot has some great twists and turns. The pace is just right, and the social concerns are handled in a way that is both age-appropriate and pertinent to today's young readers. Good stuff, people! Add it to your Goodreads and pre-order now via the links below.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great to read with substance to think about later I work with adolescents and I’m always keeping an eye out for books to recommend that are fun, but not fluff.  Promise Me Something, is just that – a good read with substance.  It’s a page-turner with quirky, but believable characters, humorous dialogue and descriptions and an engrossing plot.  Although it deals with serious issues (homophobia and teen suicide) it is not heavy or grim.   The reader gets caught up in the relationships between the characters as well as the plot, and is left with much to mull over thoughtfully.  Great book for a discussion group. The novel is categorized as young adult because the main characters are high school freshmen, but older adults like me can really enjoy it too.  It’s amazing how vividly high school memories come alive when reading Promise Me Something.  I’ll recommend it to my teen friends and my peers.
bookhound00 More than 1 year ago
Because of the subject matter, I read this book before passing it along to my teen. I picked it up, and didn't put it down until finished at 2AM. I was hooked and had to find out what happens. I was surprised (but don't want to spoil it for you). This amazing book brought me right back 25 years to high school. The characters rang true to me and I can even attach names I knew back then to Reyna and her friends from middle school. Granted, the combination of losing a mother to a drunk driver AND almost losing a father in another accident is rare, but hey, fiction always sets up events to see what happens to the players. This is a must-read - not only for teens but also anyone who's been through high school.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in a day, and I could not put it down! It wasnt predictable like someother books, it was a page turner that kept me asking for more! As a teen, I havnt yet expericnced anything like in this book, but I think that the story captures what the author is trying to say so perfectly. The book has so many great characters and so many great lessons and aspects (I dont want to give any plot spoilers) that I think anyone and everyone should read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Promise me something. Liz What if you were lesbian? What would you do? Especially if you told your best friend and she dissed you for it. Reyna What if your dad had a girlfriend and she had almost killed him? What if your bestfriends werent really your friends? And what if someone you thought you could trust you couldnt? PROMISE ME SOMETHING. NEVER LIE TO ME.
Sarah_UK1 More than 1 year ago
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Albert Whitman & Company and Netgalley.) 14-year-old Reyna lives with her dad. Her mother died 7 years ago, and she nearly lost her father recently when his girlfriend Lucy crashed the car they were in, leaving him in a coma with a fractured skull. Reyna is now starting at a new school, leaving her other friends behind. The first friend she makes is a girl called Olive, a girl that Reyna isn’t really sure she even wants to be friends with. Olive is hiding a secret though, a secret that’s really tough for her to not talk about, and Reyna’s reaction to this secret ruins everything between them. Can Olive and Reyna be friends again? Why is Olive so sensitive to the homophobic remarks that her teacher comes out with? And who is the girl who lives in Olives shed? This was an okay story, but some of the content was pretty shocking to me, and I personally don’t think that this book is appropriate for some teens. I found Reyna a little irritating and almost lifeless. She seemed to just go along with what everyone else was doing, and was overly concerned by what people thought of her. Olive was also slightly annoying, and again, overly concerned with what people thought of her. I know high school is bad, but I really wanted her to just stick up for herself a little more, and stop being quite so downtrodden. The storyline in this book was not very good. We had Reyna who was still missing her mother, and very against her father’s girlfriend Lucy, and then we had Olive, her friend who lived in the shed, and Olive’s alcoholic mother. The main storyline in this book was then the fact that Olive was gay. She told Reyna, who then refused to be her friend in case people thought that she was gay, which I thought was a terrible thing to do. Then, to make matters worse, Olive’s friend who lives in the shed commits suicide, and Olive uses this to fake her own death, and then turns up at her own memorial service! I have to say that I didn’t appreciate this storyline at all, especially when Olive then talks about how she and her friend Grace were sitting on the railway tracks reading by flashlight when Grace decided to kill herself. I mean really? What a shocking storyline to have in a book aimed at teens? This is pretty irresponsible if you ask me, and I’m not impressed. As if the storyline wasn’t bad enough, there were also other parts of this story that I didn’t like. First there was Olive talking about how she wished her mom was dead so that people would feel sorry for her!! Then we had Reyna talking about how her friend Abby touched her dogs naughty bits to find out what they felt like. Just yuck! That must be sexual abuse of a dog or something. Then there was the teacher who was horribly homophobic, and graphic descriptions of what the dead girl looked like after the train had hit her. Generally not very nice to be honest. Then after all these revelations, the book just sort of ended, I can’t really say that this bothered me too much, because I wanted it to be over, but it was pretty poor really. Overall; difficult subjects, not handled well, and inappropriate for some teens. 4 out of 10.