One thing that I can say I loved about this book – the cover.
The rest is well.....Tijan.
I have read a lot of her books in the past, and I have to say she is tragically repetitive. What blew me away in her first novels, disappointed me in the rest, because she seems to use the same ingredients for each and every novel she writes. Considering that she wrote quite a few, you wind up with the same old routine, but different costumes. It gets old real quick.
Her preferences are creating deeply traumatized female characters in some form of social isolation. That social isolation can be real, with the character having limited friends, or self-imposed with the character's perceived disentanglement from society due to past issues that affect her current mental state. Tijan also uses the character's history to portray emotional maturity that reaches above normally expected standards in a younger group of people. That on it's own is nothing new, and often used, because our past defines us all, but what Tijan doesn't allow are the same standards for her supporting characters.
The heroine, in this book that would be Taryn, interacts with a large number of supporting female characters, and all of them are found lacking in some way. Taryn often observes conversations and social situations, then provides inner monologue dissecting the reasoning behind the behavior of those characters, and even if it's not outright mockery, the observations often point out need for social acceptance and romantic happiness in a condescending kind of way. The emotional maturity doesn't stretch out the supporting female characters, even by the way of common sense, as they are often portrayed as shallow, promiscuous and petty. Even the closest friends and family in the main character's inner circle often display cruelty, selfishness and willful lack of understanding. All of that is carefully layered with the purpose of setting the main character apart, and proving just how different, and by her way of understanding better she is then everybody else.
With all the females portrayed (and effectively eliminated as competition, both mentally and physically) as catty, overly feminine (in a bad way), immature or simply stupid, we are left with a need find a balance for Taryn. That balance comes in the shape of our leading male character – Trey.The male character shows acceptance of our heroine trough intense sexuality, and serves as a focus to sharpen the uniqueness of the heroine. Since Taryn is a league of her own, it is only natural that she gets the alpha male specimen of the entire possible cast. The rich, beautiful, womanizing, i-don't-give-a-shit-about-anything, unrepentant bad boy, that won't be tamed by any woman. Except our leading lady, but that is to be expected, as she is the only one female in a 200 mile radius, armed with an IQ that's higher then the current room temperature.
Second signature Tijan's focus is obsession with social status. But it really didn't work in this particular book. Taryn gets involved in unmasking of a drug lord, solving a murder and kidnapping, then follows up with her own criminal activity. All of this is set in a high school environment, where the food chain is mercilessly displayed of having life changing impact. Tijan's leading characters, purposely or not, always wind up on the top of the IN crowd, getting respect and often steam-rolling over any competition. The depth of character, emotional maturity and the aim of accomplishing strong individuality in Taryn clashes with juvenile descriptions of school hierarchy and how desperately important they are. When in fact, they are not. Social grouping happens everywhere, but in Tijan's world it's often portrayed as the second most important thing after the life experiences of her leading characters. In 'A whole new crowd' that created a feeling of kids playing adults (especially when Trey said to Taryn that he was expected by the entire school to deal with her after she insulted the 'top' crowd) that didn't allow the reader to appreciate the dangerous story she tried to tell.
All in all, this was a different type of novel for Tijan. I was recommended this novel with the promise that Taryn is tamer as a character, and that it doesn't have such a desperate feel that follows her other novels. In a sense, that was true, but still, I expected more.