*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Folded Notes from High School
Author: Matt Boren
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
It’s 1991, and Tara Maureen Murphy is finally on top. A frightening cross between Regina George and Tracy Flick, Tara Maureen Murphy is any high school’s worst nightmare, bringing single-minded ambition, narcissism, manipulation, and jealousy to new extremes. She’s got a hot jock boyfriend in Christopher Patrick Caparelli, her best friend Stef Campbell by her side, and she’s a SENIOR, poised to star as Sandy in South High’s production of Grease. Cinching the role is just one teensy step in Tara’s plot to get out of her hometown and become the Broadway starlet she was born to be. She’s grasping distance from the finish line–graduation and college are right around the corner–but she has to remain vigilant. It gets trickier with the arrival of freshman Matthew Bloom, whose dazzling audition for the role of Danny Zuko turns Tara’s world upside down. Freshmen belong in the chorus, not the spotlight! But Tara’s outrage is tinged with an unfamiliar emotion, at least to her: adoration. And what starts as a conniving ploy to “mentor” young Matt quickly turns into a romantic obsession that threatens to topple Tara’s hard-won status at South High….
Folded Notes from High School was the light, quick, entertaining read that you’d expect it to be. It’s got that nostalgia factor for anyone who remembers anything about the 90s. Boren kicks things off right at the begging by defining a folded note in a humorous opening that acknowledges how much things have changed from the pre-technology era until now. I did really love the 90s vibe. It was a nice throwback to my childhood. Boren draws a stark line, defining the exact era that this novel takes place and setting the tone for the story. This whole book, written epistolary style, is a nod to anyone who grew up in the time before the Internet and text messages, when notes were passed in class and in the hallways. Perhaps they still are, but Boren takes the stance that this is a thing of the past.
Beyond enjoying the nostalgia throughout–the “4eva”s, the crazy silly acronyms, the rambling silly notes on college-ruled paper–I can’t say that I was much of a fan of the protagonist. Tara Maureen Murphy is incredibly immature for a senior in high school. She’s vapid, self-absorbed, and has no redeeming qualities. She’s the focal point of the story so other characters who show a lot more potential and who are much more interesting get lost in the whirlwind of her narrative. I was intrigued by secondary characters like Tara’s friend Stef who for Tara is little more than a soundboard to bounce her own ideas off of, or Stacey who resides in the background but has strong morals and a level of maturity not seen in any other character in the story. I wanted more of Tara’s freshman friend, Matt, who is thriving in theatre and who knows who he is and what he wants. There were so many great secondary characters who take a backseat to Tara’s theatrics, leaving me a bit disappointed in this story as a whole.
The epistolary, “folded note” structure means that so much is lost in the characterization of Tara. We learn bits and pieces, like her family life is not all that great, but she experiences little to no growth throughout, and we don’t really get to understand what makes her the way she is. It’s very unsatisfying. In the end, we’re left with no resolution which leads me to believe that this story ends on a tumultuous note. It suggest that the drama never ends and that things may or may not get better. I was a bit displeased with this decision as it left me wishing for a more resolute conclusion.
I can’t say if readers will really like this one or not. I won’t discourage you from trying. The target audience for reading level and concept is definitely a younger group, however the content, drawing deeply on that nostalgia factor, is aimed at an older audience. Let me know if your opinion differs from mine!