Book Review: Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul

Underneath Everything
Author: Marcy Beller Paul
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Released: October 27th 2015
Review Source: Balzer + Bray

Mattie shouldn’t be at the bonfire. She should be finding new maps for her collection, hanging out with Kris, and steering clear of almost everyone else, especially Jolene. After all, Mattie and Kris dropped off the social scene the summer after sophomore year for a reason.

But now Mattie is a senior, and she’s sick of missing things. So here she is.

And there’s Jolene: Beautiful. Captivating. Just like the stories she wove. Mattie would know; she used to star in them. She and Jolene were best friends. Mattie has the scar on her palm to prove it, and Jolene has everything else, including Hudson.

But when Mattie runs into Hudson and gets a glimpse of what could have been, she decides to take it all back: the boyfriend, the friends, the life she was supposed to live. Problem is, Mattie can’t figure out where Jolene ends and she begins.

Because there’s something Mattie hasn’t told anyone—she walked away from Jolene over a year ago, but she never really left.

Poignant and provocative, Marcy Beller Paul’s debut novel tells the story of an intoxicating—and toxic—relationship that blurs the boundary between reality and fantasy, love and loyalty, friendship and obsession.

Underneath Everything has left me so confused. While I enjoyed the writing and I easily got lost in the book, I was left feeling a little underwhelmed. When I was first looking into this book I had noticed it was either hit or miss and I unfortunately was with the latter. While I get that the book revolved around a toxic friendship that you just couldn’t shake, I just don’t think I cared enough about the characters to care about what happened. Or maybe I was just hoping there would’ve been bigger twists and turns, bigger reveals overall.

We navigate the last year of high school with Mattie while she flies under the radar with her best friend Kris, but Mattie is getting itchy to fly above the radar, emerge back into the world before graduation. Meanwhile Kris would like to plan for college, graduate, and never look back. Before the two fell from the popular ladder it use to be the four girls, Mattie, Kris, Bella, and Jolene. Things happened and they split down the middle, but recent events start to bring Jolene back into Mattie’s life and things get knocked off kilter.

The relationships in this story is truly what it revolves around, whether it be the relationship with Mattie’s family, her best friend, her boyfriend, or that toxic relationship with people she thought would always be there. It’s about the loss of friendships and the love we crave to have. And while I wasn’t so into this book, I know others are and will be. We’ve all had a friendship that we needed to end, put in the pile of memories and keep it there, but toxic people can be like the drugs, you know they’re bad for you but you just need one more fix. You think they need you more than you need them and it’s never that way, it just takes some time, learning, discovering, and coming to the conclusion on your own to truly see how toxic that person is making your life.

While I may not have enjoyed this story per say, I know others have and others will, so I wouldn’t pass it by on my count. We can all relate to this story one way or another, and maybe you have that toxic person in your life and this will help you shed that skin they’re attaching to.

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