Page Count: 300
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Publication Date: March 6th, 2018
Gossip Girl meets The Great Gatsby in this competitive prep school drama that tackles issues of class, diversity, peer pressure, addiction, and first love.
Seventeen-year-old London Mendes is the son of a Cuban mother and Seattle-native bookseller, and he knows exactly what he wants: to be the first in his middle class family to reach the Ivy Leagues. Specifically Princeton, alma mater of his favorite author Mia Merkley, a local mystery writer whose national fame and recent suicide have put her in the news again. Luckily for London, his own fiction and high grades put him on the radar of Birmingham Academy, a prep school that offers him a scholarship to leave public school and study with the richest students in the country.
There London meets Aria: the captivating, mysterious daughter of Mia Merkley. Her grief and darkness draw him in further than any of her mother’s novels. But soon, London learns that Aria is off limits—her blueblood boyfriend Dillon Astor is London’s newest friend and the one who decides London’s acceptance into the academy’s elite. When Aria and London become partners in a creative writing class, their friendship grows and an undeniable attraction threatens to blow London off course.
London knows he has to work harder than ever for a shot at Princeton. He knows he should stay away from drugs, parties, and Dillon’s girlfriend. But as Dillon slowly reveals his true nature and Aria’s secrets, London fails to see what is underneath it all. Now London can’t help playing hero, and he’ll have to decide what he loves more: Aria, or his own dreams.
–Possible Spoilers! Read at your own risk!–
Disclaimer: A huge thank you to the author for sending me a free ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. All quotes could be subject to changes in the final product.
“Dysfunction is the only entertainment when it’s fiction. In reality it would be a whole different story.”
When the first few pages of the book began with a discussion between two book nerds about literature, I already knew that the main character London and I were going to get along just fine.
At it’s heart Underneath It All is a contemporary novel about unexpected friendships that turn into unexpected attraction and relationships.
The story deals with addiction and unhealthy relationships, and about how the choices we make in life for ourselves and those we love can be difficult, especially when school drama and peer pressure is added into the mix.
“I’m not sure a person can simply stop wanting, or thinking about another person, even if it’s for the best.”
I liked London, we did not have much in common besides our mutual love of books. He is much more of a romantic than I am, but even so, London is so sweet and nice and kind, which I think is so undervalued. His character is kind and supportive, and he is such a great friend to Aria.
“One thing was clear—Aria wasn’t the kind of girl who bent rules—she broke them as a matter of principle.”
Aria was a deeply emotionally broken and mysterious character. She is withdrawn and closed off, and often time no one really knows what truly going on in her head, not even her friends.
Her poems at the beginning of most of the chapters gives the reader glimpses of her problems. They were all so heartbreaking and sad, I didn’t love Aria, but I really felt for her.
Her relationship with London was so unbelievably charming. I found myself smiling at their interactions and their antics, and they were just so adorable.
‘“Music is very important because year from now, when you listen to this song, you’ll remember this moment, what you were thinking, what it felt like, everything’”
I guess my main issue with their relationship was I didn’t really get it? I mean, they were adorable together yes, and they clearly got each other in a way that both of them needed.
But she was clearly in a relationship. Did I particularly like Dillon? Not really. Did I like his relationship with Aria? No way.
I just didn’t understand why London was so captivated by her that he would risk everything for her. There were some lines in his narration that made me uncomfortable because it just seemed like London was in love with the mystery of her.
“The more trouble I had figuring her out, the stronger my attraction.”
That may just be a me thing though. I am really not good with understanding romance. He makes so many mistakes, but it’s undeniable that he grows a lot from his experiences.
That being said the story definitely gets darker and more depressing the more London gets entangled into the complex relationship of the Golden Clique.
“They are envied for their mutual devotion, for their bond, for the way they love and protect one another. A friendship written in the stars, forged in fire, bright like gold.”
The friendship between the Golden Clique was so messed up, and yet there is such a strong loyalty there that is slightly unhealthy and toxic.
They were all so real. Did I like them all or always agree with their actions? No, not at all. But they were all so human in the sense of not wanting to admit their mistakes. It was not all happiness and luxury from being wealthy, they all had their problems and their issues.
I really do not know how I feel about them. I cannot say I really liked any of the clique members, they were all pretty mean, and I will never be okay with bullying.
I did enjoyed Jason and Annalisa as secondary characters. I had a lot of fun learning more about them.
There is betrayal and there is heartbreak and mean bullying, there are secrets and there are lies, but the ending, while bittersweet (and made me a tad bit angry) was satisfying to me. I will be okay with how it ended. I am okay.
“I think love is an embellished idea that compels people to turn it into a set of high expectations. No one can live up to that. One way or another, all loves ends in disappointment.”
Overall, Underneath It All was a lovely, emotional, and beautiful book. The author’s writing was poetic and fun to read, I especially enjoyed all of the literature analogies and metaphors. I loved London’s voice, you could practically feel his love for literature.
It is a character driven story with a wonderful cast of flawed characters. Any fellow book lover will find a small piece of themselves in London.
“Aria looked back at me and smiled. ‘Don’t worry, it’s a good kind of pain.’”
3.5 out of 5 stars
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