Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review: Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul

Published October 27th 2015 by Balzer + Bray
Mattie shouldn’t be at the bonfire. She should be finding new maps for her collection, hanging out with Kris, and steering clear of almost everyone else, especially Jolene. After all, Mattie and Kris dropped off the social scene the summer after sophomore year for a reason.

But now Mattie is a senior, and she’s sick of missing things. So here she is.

And there’s Jolene: Beautiful. Captivating. Just like the stories she wove. Mattie would know; she used to star in them. She and Jolene were best friends. Mattie has the scar on her palm to prove it, and Jolene has everything else, including Hudson.

But when Mattie runs into Hudson and gets a glimpse of what could have been, she decides to take it all back: the boyfriend, the friends, the life she was supposed to live. Problem is, Mattie can’t figure out where Jolene ends and she begins.

Because there’s something Mattie hasn’t told anyone—she walked away from Jolene over a year ago, but she never really left.

Poignant and provocative, Marcy Beller Paul’s debut novel tells the story of an intoxicating—and toxic—relationship that blurs the boundary between reality and fantasy, love and loyalty, friendship and obsession.

My Thoughts
I don’t get it… I just don’t get it… After slowly trudging through 300 plus pages of Underneath Everything, I believe I might have missed the point somewhere along the way. Probably my most disappointing read in 2015.

From what I gathered, Mattie and Kris purposely removed themselves from the social scene back in their sophomore year after something went down between their Fabulous Four group that included Mattie, Kris, Bella and the core of this madness Jolene. Now that senior year is upon them, Mattie no longer wants to miss out, so she and Kris head to the high school bonfire where the wheels are set in motion for Mattie to get back what she lost… her social status, Hudson and Jolene’s attention.

It’s no surprise the ratings for Underneath Everything fall on two sides of the spectrum. I’ve seen some readers absolutely adore this book for pushing the boundaries using beautiful words and elusive writing. I will give it that… there’s a tone of eroticism that definitely doesn’t fit the Young Adult mold. The novel also dapples with topics around teen bisexuality, dysfunctional relationships, and obsessive personalities.

However, where others seem to easily connect with Marcy Beller Paul’s bold debut novel, I really feel this story will resonate with a specific niche of readers, and unfortunately, I don’t fall in that category.

Throughout the entire novel, I never felt fully engaged with the story. I constantly felt I was missing the point, sort of like walking into the middle of a conversation where the characters never desired to clue me into their story. The mystery to the novel felt a bit light and somewhat odd. <spoiler> From what I gathered, Jolene did some pretty shitty things to Mattie, like try to suffocate her, tie her up and gag her, and later when they reconnected, she got her drunk and stoned at a party and made a fool out of her. One big WTF IMHO. I could be wrong, but that’s what I gathered from Mattie’s vague narrative.</spoiler>

Overall, Underneath Everything was a story about a lot of things, but nothing very significant. Its major bragging right is that it’s a YA book that boldly depicts a story about a dysfunctional, borderline obsessive, bisexual teen relationship with lots of characters that are still trying to define themselves and their friendships. Not quite for me, but apparently it is for many others.
2 Snowflakes


  1. *groans* I'm still waiting to read this one, as there are just too many mixed reviews. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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