Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark

Abram and Juliette know each other. They’ve lived down the street from each other their whole lives. But they don’t really know each other—at least, not until Juliette’s mom and Abram’s dad have a torrid affair that culminates in a deadly car crash. Sharing the same subdivision is uncomfortable, to say the least. They don’t speak.

Fast-forward to the neighborhood pharmacy, a few months later. Abram decides to say hello. Then he decides to invite her to Taco Bell. To her surprise as well as his, she agrees. And the real love story begins.

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At an indeterminate point in our future, all teenagers must undergo an exam to decide whether they’ll be sent away to work for the Guild, a mysterious collection of rich and powerful people. Tate Sullivan and her cousin Zoe aren’t too worried – as they’re reminded right before they go in, no Sullivan has ever passed. But of course, as luck would have it, both Tate and Zoe pass and are immediately sent away without so much as a chance to say goodbye to their families. They’re given private quarters, fancy clothes, and more food than they’ve ever seen in their lives. Everything is great… until they’re split up and forced to fight for their lives against a system that wants control of their minds and bodies.

The plot of Under My Skin is intriguing. It’s something I haven’t seen done before, which was surprising and much appreciated. At a time when it seems like everything in dystopia has been overdone, it was really nice to find something completely new.

The main problem, for me at least, was that I was thrown into the middle of this world without much idea of what was going on. Who is the Guild? What are they all about? Clearly they’re evil, but what exactly do they do? What is a Water Bearer? Are these girls being auctioned off? What’s going on?! For most of the book, I felt like I’d missed something, because Tate wasn’t questioning what was happening to her like I was. I kind of slogged through the first half or so before everything started becoming clearer. Of course, once I finally understood what was going on, everything started coming together. 

As for the characters, they were very well developed. Tate is strong, stubborn, and smart. At first, Zoe seems like she’ll fall into the background, but she ends up being more than capable of holding her own. Even the secondary characters like Quinn, Des, Rebecca, and the various Guild members are well written. They all have their own voices and distinct personalities.

All in all, very well done. I just wish I hadn’t felt so lost at the beginning.

Thanks to Netgalley and the author for the free copy.

Final rating: 3.5/5, rounded to ★