In the fall, I read Corey Ann Haydu’s debut novel – OCD Love Story – and was really blown away by how good the writing was. So, I definitely had a lot of high expectations and excitement when I saw her newest novel, Life by Committee, in the library and quickly pulled it off the shelves. These expectations were exceeded if anything and my excitement about the book continues to build as I keep mulling over the unique character depiction and themes woven into this story about a girl who loses her IRL friends and turns to an online community for connection, understanding, and guidance.
To give a little more detail, the story is told from the perspective high school girl Tabitha, who (to borrow the words from the jacket copy) might be the only girl in history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. As she explores her appearance and sexuality in ways her friend group shuns her for she finds an online group called Life by Committee.
Members of the group share weekly secrets then receive assignments from LBC’s mysterious online administrator. If they don’t complete the assignment then their secrets will be revealed.
The rules of the group are easy to understand, but often hard to follow. Tabitha gains a sense of belonging and validation … which she is unable to find anywhere else in her life. Still, there is a price and eventually Tab must examine the limits to what she will do to stay in the group.
I really loved reading a book that used technology and Internet communities in a way that was so central to the plot. The perceived anonymity and instant gratification Tabitha feels in connection with LBC felt both real and relevant.
The subtle ways the narrative with filled with feminism also made me want to stand up and clap for Corey Ann Haydu. Seriously, the way that girls slut-shame each other for even the most benign offenses was expertly portrayed and called out. Tabitha begins the book as a version of another good girl with an undeserved bad reputation. But her struggle between resisting and fulfilling her peer’s opinions of her fascinated me the most. Especially, heartbreaking were the times Tab’s parents and school administrators completely mishandle and misread the situation.
There are some steamy smooching scenes and a surprisingly sweet romance embedded into this story, but the focus remains clearly on Tabitha’s development of a sense of self. This is not only a book that I want to recommend and reread … it is definitely the type of book that I hope to write some day. If you’ve read it to I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments.