Author: Lynn Weingarten
Publisher: Simon Pulse
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Bad girls with perfect faces by Lynn Weingarten tells us of the unpredictable ways in which the sanest individuals react when they realise that their dear ones have acted in monstrous ways.
On the eve of the 17th birthday of Xavier, her best friend, Sasha decides to tell him about her feelings for him. He has just about recovered from a bout of severe depression after having been dumped by his ex-girlfriend, Ivy.
Sasha decides that tonight, she will tell him all, take a deep breath, open my mouth, and let my heart climb right out of it. In the last one month, they have shared one drunken rum-soaked kiss, and Sasha hopes they have a future together.
They go out to their regular haunts and they are having a good time when Sasha literally senses the presence of Ivy around, deep in my gut the way some animals sense an earthquake just before it comes. Ivy has come there with her best friend, Gwen, who had been best friends with Sasha, when they were in the 4th grade.
When Ivy and Xavier get together again, Sasha feels compelled to act. She knows that Xavier is as deeply entranced this time around, as he was earlier. She also knows that Ivy’s liaisons with random men will continue and that she will hurt him again.
Sasha pictures Ivy reaching in, tearing out his heart, putting it into her mouth, and eating it. She opens a fake account in the name of Jake Jones, and then begins chatting with Ivy, in the hope of collecting proof of her faithlessness. Over the course of 18 days, they text hundreds of times, flirting with each other, getting closer.
When Ivy and Jake finally agree to meet, Sasha hopes to catch Ivy red-handed. But tragedy unfolds, affecting all their lives with unforeseen and terrible consequences.
For the most part, the story is written in alternate viewpoints of Sasha and Xavier. Sasha’s is first-person, while Xavier’s is in third-person. Halfway through the book, the author introduces a mystery PoV. Is it Ivy? Or someone else?
Sasha is very mature for her age. She knows how easy it is to lose someone and how there are so many different ways for it to happen. She has a keen sense of humour. I appreciated the playful banter between Sasha and Xavier, how they ‘got’ each other.
Sasha is a strong character, and so is Ivy. Xavier, their object of affection, remains weak in contrast. His niceness is all that seems to be his strong point.
If there was anything that the four young characters had in common, it was the minimal presence of their parents in their lives. Xavier’s parents are emotionally dry, uncomfortable with expressing affection. Ivy openly rebels against her parents through her lifestyle. Sasha’s mother jet sets around the world with her latest boyfriend; she does not mention her father. Gwen’s mother is dead of cancer.
Ultimately, everyone, it seemed, was hurtling towards self-destruction. The characters lost their heads, drinking beyond limits, often losing count of reality in the process. Also, there was an unhealthy addiction to Instagram, of living life for the benefit of sharing it on the social media.
There are some beautiful lines in the book, all in Sasha’s accounts, which make you stop and ponder.
The faraway monster always looks different than the monster in front of you, in your arms, in your heart. When someone you cherish does something incomprehensible, you will find reasons to decide they are the exception. You will cling to the details; telling yourself, but this is different. But it never is.
No one thinks the people they love are monsters. Because love is the biggest liar of all.
Later she adds, We are all capable of both more and less than we ever could have imagined.
She also says, A heart too full is like a bomb. One day it will explode.
And that’s exactly what happens.
There are a lot of twists and turns in this one, and sometimes it was hard to imagine that people can actually act in such bizarre ways. But then I had to remind myself that the characters were all high-school students –- a time when people literally let their hormones do the thinking for them.
The book also skirts around issues relating to social media, sexuality and mental illness, with at least two characters questioning their own mental health.
The whole point is about how far we may go to save the ones we love, and about how we make mistakes, and then set out to rectify those mistakes, only to end up making bigger ones.
The cover image, a full lipstick with flies buzzing around it, is a reminder of how something that looks beautiful and sexually enticing can often be rotten at its core.