If I’m Being Honest
by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
e-ARC, 384 pages
Published April 23rd 2019 by Viking Books for Young Readers
High school senior Cameron Bright’s reputation can be summed up in one word: bitch. It’s no surprise she’s queen bee at her private L.A. high school—she’s beautiful, talented, and notorious for her cutting and brutal honesty. So when she puts her foot in her mouth in front of her crush, Andrew, she fears she may have lost him for good.
In an attempt to win him over, Cameron resolves to “tame” herself, much like Katherine in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. First, she’ll have to make amends with those she’s wronged, which leads her to Brendan, the guy she labelled with an unfortunate nickname back in the sixth grade. At first, Brendan isn’t all that receptive to Cameron’s ploy. But slowly, he warms up to her when they connect over the computer game he’s developing. Now if only Andrew would notice…
But the closer Cameron gets to Brendan, the more she sees he appreciates her personality—honesty and all—and wonders if she’s compromising who she is for the guy she doesn’t even want.
I received an e-ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I knew I would enjoy this book, but it still surprises me how much I loved this book- and how it hits too close to home for me.
If I’m Being Honest revolves around Cameron, who is unapologetically honest to the point of being cruel. One night, her behavior sets her crush off and she decided to change like Catherine in The Taming of the Shrew to win him back.
Here’s the thing: Cameron reminds me of myself. Maybe she’s being honest for a different reason, but for me, I value honesty above others. That’s why I always try to give my honest opinion as a courtesy to my friends. However, Cameron is also honestly very bitchy and rude. She gives her opinions whether someone wants it or not, and her word choice could be better. While I know how to soften the edges, Cameron doesn’t know- and nor does she wants to.
I didn’t understand it at first. Wouldn’t a person be a better friend if they told the truth? (…) I’ve always thought of honesty as helpful even if it’s hurtful.
The quote above is me, in a nutshell. I never understand how someone could prefer listening to sweet lies rather than the truth. But reading this book, seeing Cameron (me) in a third person perspective, it really opens my eyes. Yes, my words and delivery might be softer, but it doesn’t mean it will lessen the impact to others. It just gets very personal to me, in a good way that is reflective, and I find myself enjoying the story even more 💖
Of course there’s a romance in this book. While initially “reforming” to get Andrew back, Cameron eventually fell for Brendan. It was hard at first, after all, Cameron has a reputation and she did killed Brendan’s social life. However, as the story goes, I found myself rooting for their relationship! Cameron and Brendan are just super adorable, not only in the sweet sense, but also in how they understand each other. They managed to communicate genuinely through banters and normal words, never letting their ego clouds their understanding.
Another thing I love in this book is all the female friendships. Cameron has two friends, Morgan and Elle. Together, they form the popular clique of the school. During her “rebranding” phase, Cameron befriend Paige. I think both friendships are genuine: Morgan and Elle accepts Cameron for who she is and they motivate each other. With Paige, it was more intimate, personal, and just softer. Both friendships, of course, also has its flaws: with Morgan and Elle, Cameron kinda has to keep a facade, while with Paige, she doesn’t understand the harsher part of Cameron.
However, even I have to admit that it’s not a sunshine and rainbows experience for me. First, I think it portrays Andrew in a bad light. I mean, if you’re in his position, wouldn’t you? How many of you think being rude to a waiter is a deal breaker? If being rude to a stranger is a deal breaker, imagine being rude to your schoolmates for 3 years. Yes, I appreciate honesty, but it doesn’t mean you can be rude, or in everyone’s words, a bitch. It doesn’t mean that Andrew “can’t accept her for who she is” or “forcing her to change”. At the end of the day, it was Cameron’s decision to go on her journey and again, Cameron’s level of rudeness is really uncomfortable, even through the pages.
I also thinks this book is being unfair to Elle. All this time, we are being told that Elle is this ice princess, typical popular, ambitious girl that has no care for other things except herself. At the end though, we see how she’s still a human after all, still a teenage girl who needs her friend- who misjudged her terribly. Elle may judged (or give her honest opinion, whatever you choose) Cameron, but in the end, she did stuck with her and even helped her. Cameron misses all that and just assume the worst on Elle.
And finally, I think the subplots are underdeveloped. I like the subplot of Cameron deciding her future, but I don’t like about how her parent’s past affect her life. In the end, it wasn’t really explored and the resolution/explanation in the end was very rushed.
If I’m Being Honest was everything I expected in a contemporary: fun, light hearted, adorable romance, and well developed character. It is also unexpectedly personal for me, with how much the main character resembles myself. While this book also has its flaws, overall it was a great and memorable read for me ☀️