Review: This is W.A.R. by Lisa Roecker and Laura Roecker

thisiswarThis Is W.A.R.  by Lisa Roecker and Laura Roecker
Mature YA/Mystery
July 2, 2012
Soho Teen

Reviewed by Tori

I have always been fascinated by the Kennedys. America’s very own version of the royal family; this family’s legacy has beena  study in sorrow and tragedy. This Is W.A.R. reminded me of the Kennedy’s. The Gregory’s are an uber rich family whose money and fame rules a tiny exclusive lakeside community with an iron fist and can magically buy away any of their indiscretions. The premise of the book brought to mind the Martha Moxley case, which incidentally, coincides with the Kennedy family. A young girl is found floating dead in the lake, having been last seen with James Gregory, the heir apparent.  His grandfather covers up this alleged crime with hush money, just as he has done for years.  Only this time, the young girl’s friends, led by her step sister, decide that this time the Gregory’s won’t get away with it. The family must be destroyed and James must pay for his crimes. The girls start a secret club, W.A.R, which is the dead girl’s initials. Each are required to front $25K into the war chest, to be used to fund their revenge. As they girls struggle to find evidence against James and the Gregory family as a whole, secrets are revealed and each girl must fully examine their true motivations for wanting revenge. The pursuit of justice becomes a living entity that can free them…or destroy them all.

As I was reading this book, all I could think about was what if Martha Moxley’s friends had decided to take on the the Kennedy clan and make them pay for the murder of a 15 year old girl? Revenge is a powerful motivator and this book is all about revenge. Four very different girls with four very different motives attempt to take down a powerful seemingly untouchable family. Color me intrigued. The writing itself is good; equal parts vulnerability and feelings of immortality that most teenagers are affected with is captured perfectly. The story flows with some road bumps and numerous subplots keep you on your toes. The authors keep the suspense and intrigue at a decent level as you attempt to figure out exactly what happened that night, right along with our protagonists. There are four narrators, each telling the story from their own POV, giving us clues to what happened that night. As with any retelling, each girl has their own secrets and version of what happened and the story soon takes on a life of it’s own. It is all essentially told in sections…once all put together, we know exactly what happened and why.

While I found the story interesting, I felt it didn’t reach its true potential. Relatively short, only 288 pages, it is told by four people in the first person which, though interesting, leads to some confusion. Too much is thrown at you in order to bring about the climatic ending. The world building is almost non existent and you are left with questions. Lots of internal dialogue, speculative musing, and flashbacks left this reader lost and having to backtrack to see if I missed a turn somewhere. The whole “rich country club” persona the characters are afflicted with takes away some of the seriousness I felt this story deserved. Four girls are essentially destroying lives in order to avenge a friend and I felt like I was reading an episode from the Pretty Little Liars Club. Maybe if this had been made a series rather than a standalone, the character’s personalities could have fleshed out better, the character’s background explored more, and things would have made more sense. The money aspect for one. Each girl can easily put their hands on a cool $25K with no problems? I was also unimpressed with some of their ideas for revenge. They were very juvenile and did not appeal to my sense of humor as I think the authors expected. Basically, these girls didn’t think of things through.  I expected some ingenuity but instead got ridiculous. Nude pictures and hormone pills in drinks?  It was only at the end when everything else failed, the lightbulb went off and they started thinking smart.

All the characters had a larger than life caricature feel to them. Real but beefed up with exaggeration. The grandfather is a manipulative bastard whose reasons were enlightening and horrifying. Both James and his brother Tripp are the essential bad boys for whom normal rules of society and human decency have no effect on them. The girls struggle between loving and hating these boys and their perceived identities are pronounced. For example, the so called stupid one is shown REALLY stupid. Before their friend’s murder, they did whatever they could to get those boys to pay attention  to them. Absent parents, social climbers, and cops who look the other way are the norm in this town. It’s almost as if the authors were trying to teach a lesson in here.

Regardless of my issues, I do think this book will appeal to the crowd it was written for-teenagers. It is dramatic with over the top situations and emotions and reads fast from start to finish. It had a “crack” feel to it that kept me reading to the end.  Unfortunately, it just didn’t work all that well for me.

Rating: C-

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