Publisher: Soho Teen
Release: July 2, 2013
A girl dead, a boy responsible. A terrible, silent, life-changing crime, but one that a person wealthy and powerful enough can erase with a few strategically placed millions. With sufficient influence, someone can have anything he wants-and throw away anything he doesn't-in this appearance-obsessed country club in which people will do anything to slip by incognito and return to the trivial tanning and chatting of the time before a tragic murder. And one group of girls is going to do something about it.At Hawthorne Lake Country Club your trust fund can’t buy you happiness, but if it’s big enough, it almost always buys innocence. When Willa Ames-Rowan drowns in Hawthorne Lake everyone who’s anyone knows James Gregory is the one who killed her. But no one will ever say a word. Enter The W.A.R. Four girls, four motives to avenge Willa’s death, and only one rule: Destroy the Gregory brothers at any cost. The girls pool their trust funds and devise a series of elaborate pranks to deliver their own particular brand of vigilante justice. Innocence is lost, battles are won, but it’s the truth about what really happened that night that stands to destroy them all.
Yes, yes, and yes. This sounded like the perfect premise to me, what with the omnipotent man almost guaranteed to make my blood boil and a daring group of teens determined to make me cheer for them as they seek justice. I love reading about crimes covered up for publicity's sake because they rarely fail to make me viciously angry and therefore one hundred percent invested in the story, and I hoped This is W.A.R. would provide some of this same emotion in the vein of Daisy Whitney's The Mockingbirds duology. The reason it does not, though, lies in its characters and they way they make it impossible for readers to care about them at all.
I frequently complain about clichéd characters, but the revenge-seeking girls in this book are not even worthy of this accusation's honor. They have no personalities. None. Never before have I met a cast so utterly devoid of backstories, quirks, and more than two characteristics, and readers will find it easy to forget that Madge, the most nondescript of the bland characters, even exists. Worse still, the mystery occasionally becomes confusing because the two Gregory boys are essentially the same person, impossible not to accidentally flip-flop from time to time and blurred together as villains into one vile creature who must be stamped out. These people do not make readers hate them because there is nothing to hate or even remember after finishing the story; they instead leave readers with no emotions toward them whatsoever, which is the worst reaction to have to a character.
Grasping the War members' plans for recompense is an even more disorienting task, since, for the majority of the book, they exclusively involve embarrassing the Gregorys until their grandfather disinherits them in disgust. I am not promoting an "eye-for-an-eye" mentality, saying that they should have sought equally deadly retribution, or proclaiming that, if they had, it would have made up for their friend's death, but I do not buy that plotting to slip the boys steroids causing "manboobs" to shoot up will solve anything. And when this mentality is proved correct and the mere pranks do not seem to faze the boys, the club members dawdle in thinking of more effective plans, leaving readers with an edge of boredom, wishing for more high-stakes creativity.
However, saying this is an entirely bad book would be unfair and incorrect because, despite the aforementioned impatience for a more intriguing plot, it is a readable novel with a decent amount of suspense and fun rich-girl drama. This is W.A.R. provides exactly the kind of backstabbing danger and mystery some readers will love, and the part of me that could ignore its weak character development enjoyed indulging in its secrets and insane ideas.
The problem, though, is that This is W.A.R. is not the kind of book that grabs a person, makes him or her invested in what happens and worried about the people to whom it happens, which almost invalidates any escape gained from it. Many will enjoy this book but it likely will not show up on an abundance of favorites lists or receive raving praise across the blogosphere simply because remembering it after reading is an arduous task more trouble than it is worth. After its brief flash of entertainment, this story flits from the mind, leaving nothing but a dissatisfied disappointment and images of everything it could have done differently.