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ABOUT THE BOOK
Prep meets The Virgin Suicides in a haunting coming-of-age story for the digital generation and an examination of the hypocrisy of small town life, where no one quite knows where rumour ends and truth begins.
Adamsville wasn’t a place that people came to. It was a place you were from, where you were born, where you were raised, where you stayed…
Before Carolyn Lessing arrived, nothing much had ever happened in Adamsville, Alabama. Each week, at dinner tables and in the high school assembly, everyone would pray for the football team to win. Each year, the Adams High hotlist would be updated, and girls would rise and fall within its ranks. Each day, everyone lived by the unwritten rules that cheerleaders did not hang out with the swim team, seniors did not date freshmen and the blistering heat was something that should never be remarked upon. But then the new girl came.
All Carolyn’s social media could reveal was that she had moved from New Jersey, she had 1075 friends – and she didn’t have a relationship status. In beach photos with boys who looked like Abercrombie models she seemed beautiful, but in real life she was so much more. She was perfect.
This was all before the camera crews arrived, before it became impossible to see where rumour ended and truth began, and before the Annual Adamsville Balloon Festival, when someone swore they saw the captain of the football team with his arm around Carolyn, and cracks began to appear in the dry earth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Bannan was born in 1978 in upstate New York. She moved frequently when she was growing up, living in Texas, in Florida and in Alabama, where she attended high school. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2000 and then moved to Ireland, where she has lived ever since. She has worked in various roles in the arts and, since 2007 she has been Head of Literature with the Arts Council. In 2010, she took part in the Faber Academy’s novel-writing course. @sarahkeegs
BANNAN’S PROM PLAYLIST
Since the characters in this book seriously take prom way too seriously, Bannan and Bloomsbury kindly provided her special prom playlist. There’s some awesome classics there.
So. The PROM. A big dance that kids attend to at the end of the year. Sometimes in a hotel. Sometimes in a gym. Sometimes on a boat. (Yep. I’m not making this up.) The girls in their gowns and heels. Tee length and floor length and above the knee. The guys in their tuxes and tails and top hats (there was always one, in my experience, and usually with a cane). Girls with up-dos. Nails manicured. New stockings. Strapless dresses that didn’t quite fit. Boys with new cologne and half- tied bowties and sweaty palms. The thrill of being out later than usual. A curfew extended. And this is what goes on. Up and down the United States of America in May or June. Every year. Everything the same, but so much is…different. Depending on where you are. A different set of rituals unfold, depending on your location.
But my experience – the experience in a small town called Decatur, Alabama – was this: sequined dresses. A tissue-papered gym. Teachers and coaches as chaperones. Corsages that were so big that you’d risk ripping your dress. A tradition called ‘lead-out’, in which each couple is announced to a crowd, a crowd that included our parents and grandparents. Girls stuffing their bras and guys spiking their drinks. We were so tacky it was almost beautiful. I’ve forgotten lots about my prom, and about high school.
But I think the best way to access memories – of almost any time – is to think about the music. Music always seems to bring us back, whether we want to go there or not. To help me remember the music – which in turn helps me remember prom and high school more generally – I put out a call on Facebook to my friends from high school. Asked them to come up with a list of songs for a prom playlist. And this is what we came up with.
This list is embarrassing and exhilarating. It’s full of songs that make me blush and songs that make me want to cry and songs that make me want to sing my
lungs out. It’s music of the 90s, through and through, and that means that you’ve got hip hop, grunge, pop and – being from Alabama – just a little bit of country.
1. Sheryl Crow – All I Wanna Do
Our senior year, this song was played – by mistake – immediately following ‘lead-out’. It was meant to be a slow song, but this came on… I think we got the first thirty seconds before they swapped it out…
2. Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight
So this was the REAL first song, and I think it was every year I was in high school, and probably for ages afterwards…
3. Oasis – Wonderwall
I think we thought because we listened to a British band, we thought it would make us cosmopolitan. Or something. This song was on a loop all through my junior and senior year.
4. House of Pain – Jump Around
The kids who knew the verses were the coolest, for sure, and the rest of us just jumped and screamed the chorus. Happily, nobody had mobiles back then and nobody could video the sweat-filled embarrassment…
5. The Fugees – Killing Me Softly
Before Wyclef Jean was Wyclef and before Lauryn Hill was Lauryn Hill, they were the Fugees. And this song was inescapable in the mid 90s.
6. REM – What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?
Living in Decatur, AL meant that we were close to Athens, Georgia. Home to REM and the B-52s. We were cool by association, by geographic proximity. Or so we thought.
7. Buffalo Tom – Late at Night
I can’t claim to have come to Buffalo Tom in any way other than through the medium of My So-Called Life. This song comes from the ‘Boiler Room’ episode and, well, still makes me yearn for Jordan Catalano.
8. Boys II Men – On Bended Knee
It’s impossible to differentiate the Boys II Men songs from one another, in my experience, but they formed the soundtrack to our middle school and high school dances, and no slow set was complete without one of these ballads…which I did not remember being so looooong!
9. Garth Brooks – The Dance
Every dance has its slow songs. And every Alabama dance has its country. Oh, Garth. I cringe at your omnipresence on old mixtapes!
10. No Diggity – Backstreet
It’s a scary thing to remember lyrics to a song like No Diggity twenty years later…but I do. And I can’t help but feel like it’s taking up valuable space in my brain.
11. Nirvana – Come As You Are
Kurt Cobain committed suicide during my sophomore year of high school and I’ll never forget the shock and grief that my friends and I experienced. It’s only now that I’m older that I can see the extent of his musical genius…and just how young he was. We loved this song. Universal love.
12. Weezer – Buddy Holly
We played this song on repeat in my car on the way to school, on the way to the football games, on the way to the prom…and any other occasion. Classic.
13. Green Day: Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)
I think this might have been one of the last songs played at my senior prom and it never struck me how very sad it is. Just how quickly those years go by, how infrequently we live in the moment, and how inevitable time’s passing is.
While this book was fantastic, intriguing and all in all, amazingly and originally written (duh, I gave it 5 stars), it was still a read that angered and frustrated me.
It was story of small minded people with their ugly gossip, low self-esteem and tendency to twist the truth and put down people they hated for no real reason. And this angered me so much! All throughout this book, I just wanted to jump into the book and strangle all of their tanned, barbie-doll necks.
Just the whole small-town crowd at the school was bitchy. Particularly two; Brooke and Gemma who spent their time bitch-talking Carolyn, calling her a slut and a whore. They even posted the more awful comments about her on Facebook where they made ridiculous stories about her past. They pretty much sabotaged her at any moment just because she was prettier than them without even packing on the make up.
I LITERALLY WANTED TO KILL THESE FORSAKEN PEOPLE.
On a plus side, what I found very unique in the book how the POV was written. It was written in 1st, plural all through the book. ‘We’ did this, ‘we’ did that and Bannan only named this stalker-ish group of girls a couple of times. And very subtly, too.
But back on the stalker topic, They really were stalkers. They searched up Carolyn’s Facebook page, printing them out and staring at them in awe. That really rose their creep factor.
It was a fantastic book which portrayed small minded bitches and the misuse of social media combined with jealousy and bullying, very transparently. It didn’t gift wrap the issue at all, just writing it out in the open for us to read and judge.
Highly recommended but caution, your anger will go raging like crazy