Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones. Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”-known to everyone as the Glitterati-without them suspecting a thing, is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected. The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her-evening the social playing field between the have and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan. But when the cops start investigating the string of burglaries at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could he wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?
Hardcover, 358 pages
Expected publication: March 13th 2012 by Katherine Tegen Books
Two and a half stars: A modern day, reinvented Robin Hood that doesn't quite work.
Willa is used to being the perennial, new girl. She and her single mother, an artist, have bounced around from place to place Willa's entire life. Finally, her mother has a stroke of good luck and sells some of her paintings for a phenomenal price. With their new, found fortune the pair settle into the wealthy community of Paradise Valley, Arizona. Willa is enrolled in Valley Prep, a prestigious private school. On her first day, she is nearly run over in the parking lot by a fellow student, Cherise. Luckily, for Willa she comes out unscathed and makes a new friend. Willa quickly realizes just how out of her league she is, when she plunges into the pool of wealth and privilege that most of the kids at her new school enjoy. Except for a few students, who are on scholarship, from the nearby underprivileged community of Maryvale. Willa is immediately lured by the glamour and glitter of the rich girls. She emerges into a circle of girls known as the Glitterati. Willa soon opens her eyes and realizes how uneven the playing field is for the girls from Maryvale. To make matters worse, Willa learns of a hateful, anonymous blog that bullies and gossips about members of the student body. When Willa realizes that the cruel posts are singling out the Maryvale students, she hatches a wild and daring plan to try and even the odds. Her scheme is to steal from the rich and spread the wealth. How long can Willa keep up her dangerous plan?
What I Liked:
- I enjoyed Willa, especially watching her struggle to make sense of her environment. At first she is easily swayed by the shopping excursions and flashy new clothes but then her conscience kicks in and she endeavors to make a difference. I liked that Willa was able to fight back against the cruel and cunning girls whom she once thought of as friends. Willa is a fun and likable main character.
- I liked the way the author immerses us into the shiny, wealthy environment of Paradise Valley. I lived in Phoenix, Arizona for ten years, so I am familiar with all the locales mentioned in the book. Ms. Ludwig's descriptions are dead on accurate. The community in this novel is all about image, flashy cars, expensive clothes and jewelry, etc. The only flaw I found, was two different characters were wearing windbreakers in the fall, trust me no one wears windbreakers or jackets until at least November.
- I liked the author's writing style. She has a nice, even flow and delivers an entertaining story. There are some nice descriptive phrases throughout.
- I enjoyed the presentation of a slow and indecisive romance. There thankfully, is no love triangle. Instead we are treated to an immediate attraction, that Willa tries to deny, but she just can't seem to resist the good natured, want to be bad boy, Adrian. I liked the sparks between the two.
And The Not So Much:
- I appreciated the attempt to fashion a new spin on the Robin Hood story, but for me this story misses the mark because Willa fails to do something truly good with the stolen wealth. Her heart is in the right place, but stealing from her wealthy classmates in order for her to purchase designer clothes for the disadvantaged girls doesn't exactly do much good. If she is going to rob the rich, she should do something better with the money. The whole idea came across as being silly.
- I was interested to see how the author would handle the bullying issue, especially since a fourteen year old girl here in my community, who was the victim of this heinous activity just committed suicide. The rise in online bullying is a pressing problem facing youth today. I was hoping that the author would spin a positive message regarding taunting and tormenting. Sadly, it doesn't really happen. Willa and Cherise finally take a stand against the bullies but they do nothing to try and stop the behavior. I have said this before but it bears repeating, if we want to put an end to bullying then we need to change public thinking. It is not acceptable for any of us to sit by and watch these venomous people continue to anonymously post hateful messages. As an author you have the power with your words to spread a message, so do it. Don't give us characters that are afraid to do something, write us a character who will stand up and fight!
- I was disappointed in the fact that Ms. Ludwig presents an intriguing storyline surrounding Willa's mother. After the first chapters there is a definite shift in the relationship between Willa and her mother. The tight bond begins to falter as the two start keeping secrets. Willa's mother acts strange, vanishes at odd times, is preoccupied and appears disheveled and red eyed. Over time their is a significant deterioration in the mother's health. I was anxious to get to the root of the problem but there is absolutely no resolution or revelation in regards to this plot line. This was a major disappointment for me.
- This book finishes abruptly, with relatively no conclusion to any of the story lines. This novel avoids a cliffhanger but it just ends, leaving the door open. I was not expecting this, considering that there was no indication that this was going to be a series and second, I don't see anyway the author can realistically continue this story line without doing a major divergence. I won't go into further details on this to avoid spoilers, but let's just say, it is unrealistic to continue the stealing from the wealthy to buy high dollar fashion for the poor.
Pretty Crooked was one of those books I picked up expecting a light, entertaining read. What I found was a book that ended up being frustrating with an improbable premise and failure to convey a more positive message. The author asks in the beginning do two wrongs make a right? The answer is obviously no in this book, so what is her point? I am still wondering. The ending that failed to reach any kind of resolution was also a big let down. I know many others have enjoyed this book, but unfortunately for me, it just doesn't work. Sadly, this book is one that I can't fully recommend. I am hoping that the author in her continuing books of this series will tackle the pertinent issues head on and use her voice to make a difference.
“So there was nothing to do but embrace my own personal freakiness, and smile with pride as I pedaled. Eat my dust, cars.”
“The girl cliques were almost never looking for new members, while guys were like social ShamWows---they could just keep absorbing new kids into the fold.”
“Above us, a single row of clouds was drifting across the sky like curdled cream.”
“I wasn’t just a thief, I reminded myself. I was an equalizer and I was about to make some things right.”
“Lying she liked to say, is poison in a relationship.”
“I watched as she stepped out into the hallway, melting into the shadows, and I heard the whisper of the door dragging over the carpet.”
“And all I’m saying is money doesn’t make you classy.”
“A delicious warmth spread over me, like melting Nutella on a banana sandwich.”
“You can’t live a lie forever. It gets to be a burden.”
“The moon had popped up and it was full and bright and exposed, almost vulnerable out there all by itself in the enormous open sky, dangling over the sharp peaks of the mountains.”
A copy of this book was kindly provided to me for review by Harper Collins Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.