Another Boarding School?
I don’t quite remember where I first saw this book recommended. It could have been on social media or on someone’s blog at one point or another; wherever it was, the title had stuck with me. People Like Us is a young adult mystery/thriller set at, you guessed it, a boarding school. If you aren’t subscribed to my YouTube channel, you may not know yet that one of my guilty pleasures happens to be YA fiction set at boarding schools. A multitude of books are set at boarding schools, and it seems that I have read at least half of them. At some point it just became a cliche, and yet I still go back for more. If you are like me in this way, you’ll enjoy the blend of predictable prep school elements with unpredictable suspense.
People Like Us brushes up against the likes of Mean Girls and Thirteen Reasons Why and lands somewhere in the middle. The characters felt nuanced and complex while simple enough that the long list didn’t feel overwhelming. Kay, our main protagonist, has pretty one dimensional relationships with her friends, but there are a couple exceptions to this: she is potentially in love with her best friend Brie, at the very least attracted to her. A ways into the story we meet Nola, a classmate who has always been seen as weird. I very much appreciated that Mele treats the main character’s sexuality as just a fact of the story, and that all of them seem to be fairly sexually fluid.
From the onset, i felt drawn in. Dana Mele does an excellent job with her pacing and atmosphere, and my attention was rapt from the start. Peppered throughout are quotes like, “I gaze into her eyes and look for my shadow self somewhere”. I mean, come on. How can’t you highlight the hell out of lines like that?
Mele brings up some interesting points about the human condition. We all make mistakes, some of us do bad things. Does that mean we deserve bad things to happen to us? Overall this is quite a dark psychological thriller, and I wouldn’t recommend it for immature audiences.
As I said, the pacing was great throughout, but it’s almost as if Mele ran out of steam at the end. It just felt like things fell a bit flat, like it was a rush to the end. Details are revealed about Nola that needed to be further fleshed out, or not even mentioned at all. And once we do finally get to the motive, it’s almost as if it’s mentioned in passing.
Something to take note of, if suicide if a trigger for you, please know that before reading. Mental health seems like it should be a big topic in this book, but somehow isn’t addressed properly, and for that I was disappointed.
Who This Book Is For
Overall, a good read. Dana Mele is on my radar for the future. If you enjoy Mean Girls, Thirteen Reasons Why, Riverdale, etc. I am sure you will enjoy this book as well.