Book Review: Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu

Life By Committee is the story of Tabitha; high school student with no friends, a growing (and unfortunate) reputation and immature parents. At the very beginning of the book, we learn that she is falling for schoolmate she chats to on the internet… who also happens to have a serious girlfriend. Knowing no one else would approve of their relationship, Tabitha is weighed down by keeping the details to herself. Missing her friends and finding her parents occupied by the imminent arrival of her sibling, Tabitha is delighted when she comes across Life by Committee (LBC). LBC is a website where you share your secrets with a select group of people – all sharing, all anonymous. However, Tabitha soon learns that the group will award an assignment for each secret. These assignments lead Tabitha into more and more trouble with this boy and she begins to isolate the few friends she has left in her attempts to keep up with LBC…

In many ways, I shouldn’t like Tabitha. She is flirting and messing around with someone else’s boyfriend. Big no-no. She is also frustratingly unable to see what a complete arse this boy is and how terribly he’s treating her. However, I do like Tabitha: she’s a romantic, she’s confused about her feelings, her identity, her sexual power and most importantly, she’s really lonely. She’s unable to really process what a terrible idea everything is that she’s doing, because the people she thought understood her are either no longer around or wrapped up in their own concerns. I thought Haydu did a great job of depicting a realistic young woman; one who was significantly flawed but who was trying to figure stuff out on her own terms – just like most people in reality.

It’s hard admitting the very worst things that you feel and think, and you can understand the draw of site like LBC, especially for a lonely teenager. There is a great relief in being able to confess those terrible secrets without compromising yourself. I thought the assignments that were handed out as ‘payment’ for the secret were a neat twist – these were people who thought they were pushing others to live ‘their best lives’ when in actuality, they were playing with them, as you would dolls, with no need to worry about the consequences. This is the thing with keeping lots of secrets – you spend your life terrified someone will discover them. What could LBC have done if Tabitha refused to play their game? Probably not much; but her own anxiety and guilt do most of the threatening for them.

I enjoyed Haydu’s writing style for the most part and the novel careened along at a great pace. I was more interested in her lost friendships than the romance with Joe (who was clearly a stinker, though perhaps that’s more obvious to me as an adult?) as I felt being dumped by your best friend was something that would really hurt. I would have liked to learn more about what happened; I also really liked Elise and wished there was more of her in the book. The introduction of Devon as a second love interest felt a bit forced and unnecessary, but in fairness, it didn’t have much impact on the plot. I also liked the fact that Haydu added depth to Sasha Cotton (Tabitha’s rival for Joe’s affections) making her more than just a hurdle, and showing Tabitha up for her assumptions. (I have to say though; I did enjoy the bit in the book about boys who fancy themselves white knights, and are always going out with girls they think need to be rescued, usually from themselves. Terrifyingly accurate)

This was a fun, easy read, with a unusual plot and dizzying pace. Definite summer book recommendation.

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