Title: The Revenge Playbook
Author: Rachael Allen (17 First Kisses)
Publisher: Harper Teen
Don’t get mad, get even! In this poignant and hilarious novel, Rachael Allen brilliantly explores the nuances of high school hierarchies, the traumas sustained on the path to finding true love, and the joy of discovering a friend where you least expect.
In the small town of Ranburne, high school football rules and the players are treated like kings. How they treat the girls they go to school with? That’s a completely different story. Liv, Peyton, Melanie Jane, and Ana each have their own reason for wanting to teach the team a lesson—but it’s only when circumstances bring them together that they come up with the plan to steal the one thing the boys hold sacred. All they have to do is beat them at their own game.
Brimming with sharp observations and pitch-perfect teen voices, fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Mlynowski are sure to fall head-over-heels for this sharp tale—by the author of 17 First Kisses—about the unexpected roads that can lead you to finding yourself.
I was extremely lucky to receive a digital ARC of this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of this review.
Last year, Rachael Allen’s 17 First Kisses was a surprise hit for me, so I already knew that I would be pretty interested in anything she wrote in the future. Even if I didn’t have that history with her writing, though, the summary alone would have pulled me into this book. Regardless of what got me to try this book, I am so freaking glad I did.
I was slightly confused at the beginning, but that was the main, and really only, problem I had with this book. There are four different protagonists and the book switches between the night that the girls are working on the scavenger hunt that will help them get their revenge and the time leading up to that. At the very beginning, I had a lot of trouble keeping track of which girl was which – their names seemed to be the only difference – but it got better the more I learned about the characters and their stories.
The main purpose of this book was for the girls to get revenge against the football team, but I think it’s safe to say that friendship is another big plot point. The girls start off very separate from each other, with some glimpses into the future where they actually seem friendly. The story shows that journey from mostly strangers to good friends, and that was just as enjoyable to watch as the revenge plot.
After I got to know the four protagonists, I started liking them a lot more. They all seemed like individuals rather than the same character with four different names, and they all had various other characters in their own personal orbits. Some of the characters didn’t get as fleshed out, of course, because there are only so many characters you can have who get a lot of depth, but I felt like all the important characters got that depth and I was happy with it. I would have loved to get even more from many of these characters, but not because I felt they were lacking, but simply because I liked them.
At first glance, I didn’t think this book had too much diversity, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that there is a lot of underlying diversity, which is almost as important as books that are outright focused on diversity. Ana, one of the protagonists, comes from a family of immigrants or the children of immigrants; Melanie Jane has a finger that is missing its tip; Peyton was previously in an abusive relationship; and there’s a love interest who’s Samoan and another who is Jewish. There isn’t really any focus on any of these things, but they’re all obviously there, and that’s definitely a step in the right direction.
The Adult Situation
Each girl has a different living situation. Melanie Jane’s parents are happily married, but her mother can be quite tough on her without realizing it; Liz’s parents are divorced and her father pretty much deserted them; Ana’s parents are also happily married and love their daughter a lot; and Peyton’s father died (I think – it’s been a week or so, and the different parents didn’t necessarily stick in my mind). It was another way that all the characters were differentiated, and I really appreciated it.
Almost every single character had a romance. Two of them were dumped by their football player boyfriends, which is what started much of the plot in the first place. As the story continues, two of the girls get new love interests while a third has an old love interest who has to redeem himself. Ana is the only one who doesn’t have a romance, which is disappointing since she’s the only POC of the bunch, but it would have been overwhelming if all of them had romances. As it was, I think there was just enough hints of romance without taking away the focus of friendship too much.
By the ending, both plot points were wrapped up – the revenge plot and the journey that led to that night. Things don’t end perfectly, but that wouldn’t have been realistic. I think I was quite happy with how everything wrapped up, especially their friendship. In the end, that was what was most important to me with this story, a wonderful and complex friendship.
Allen is definitely a new favorite author. I had a good feeling about her after loving her debut, but it’s always great when you read a second book and still love that author’s writing as much as the first time around. I’m excited for whatever Allen comes up with in the future.