Title: Life by Committee
Author: Corey Ann Haydu
No. of Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult; Fiction
Origins: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: 13 May 2014
Bottom Line: Too similar to Mean Girls without a likable main character
“Some secrets are too good to keep.
Tabitha might be the only girl in the history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. But her so-called friends say she’s changed, and they’ve dropped her flat.
Now Tab has no one to tell about the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her: Joe, who spills his most intimate secrets to her in their nightly online chats. Joe, whose touch is so electric, it makes Tab wonder if she could survive an actual kiss. Joe, who has Tabitha brimming with the restless energy of falling in love. Joe, who is someone else’s boyfriend.
Just when Tab is afraid she’ll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she finds Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe.
Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she’d ever go on her own.
But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go?”
Thoughts: One can enjoy a story while reading it but still dislike its messaging or the characters or anything else about the book. Such is the case with Life by Committee. One will enjoy it while reading it but any thoughts about the story will immediately highlight its weaknesses, which quickly overshadow any enjoyment one might find from it.
For one thing, the story is so predictable as to be a cliché. It has the mysterious club which promises empowerment but delivers something much different. It has the love infatuation that drives the main character to throw her value system out the window. It has angst-ridden teens suffering from loneliness because no one else understands what their lives are like. In essence, it has almost every stereotypical element of a teen drama.
While Ms. Haydu may be trying to highlight how even the “beautiful” girls have problems in high school, it still does not make Tabitha a character with whom readers can relate. It is difficult to empathize or even sympathize with a main character who flaunts her chest size and focuses on her physical attributes more than her mental ones. More importantly, it becomes obvious that many of her problems in school and out are her own doing. Unlike Lindsay Lohan’s character in Mean Girls, one does not see Tabitha’s transformation and must rely on Tabitha’s skewed perspective and contextual clues from her classmates and parents. Therefore, one only sees the Mean Girl within Tabitha and not the quiet, loyal person she appears to be before she fully developed. Her tormented thoughts would be much easier to stomach if she were not acting like such a drama queen and a reader could see Tabitha’s before-and-after without the biased filter of her own mind. Unfortunately, the similarities to Mean Girls do not just end with Tabitha either.
Tabitha is shallow, self-absorbed, and one-dimensional. Her obsession with physical appearances, and the rewards she gains because of this obsession, is difficult to stomach because it sends the wrong message to impressionable young readers, even though it is not the main lesson Ms. Haydu is trying to teach within her story. No matter how enjoyable the story is at the time of reading it, Life by Committee leaves a bad impression of teenage girls and high school in general.