People Like Us is a sapphic murder mystery set in a boarding school.
I feel like I should have liked this book more – I almost read it in one sitting, it was addictive and suspenseful, just what I wanted. And yes, three stars is a positive rating for me, but I didn’t have any major problems with this book. I just have a very long list of things that annoyed me.
What I liked
• I wanted something to read quickly, and I couldn’t put this down.
• Every character was morally gray and hiding something.
• the side characters were very well-written. Kay’s ex boyfriend cheated on her but he’s still portrayed as a multilayered person; Brie’s and Kay’s friendship was far from perfect but not abusive; the relationship dynamics were complex and messed up.
• for a contemporary book, there was almost no homophobia, and to say that every girl was queer wouldn’t necessarily be inaccurate. There’s no romance, but was it gay.
• I didn’t guess the ending during the first chapters (yes, I had low expectations)
• some parts were kind of creepy and I love creepy when it fits the story. Here, it did.
• The writing wasn’t bad
• The ending was flawed, but I didn’t feel cheated by the narration.
What I did not like
• Kay Donovan is a girl with a dark, mysterious past and the personality of a drying puddle.
• Kay is nothing but her dark past, at the end of the story I realized I actually didn’t know her at all and none of the revelations could shock me because she was still a stranger.
• Also, I’m not that interested in stories about bullies who suffer so much because people are angry at them now.
• The fat-shaming in the Tricia part. Was it necessary? Why introduce things like that and not deal with them at all…?
• No one uses label, which is an interesting choice, but if you choose not to use them, then don’t. The word “lesbian” appears only one time in this book, and it’s used as an insult. I didn’t like this.
• …too many Shakespeare references.
SPOILERY Things I Didn’t Like
• Kay’s tragic past felt like wasted potential and a red herring. I thought the past things could be connected with the new killer but they weren’t, and that was kind of disappointing. I mean, don’t focus so much on the past tragedy that is basically just there to make us feel sympathy for the main character…
• I guessed the ending. Not immediately, but before the actual reveal. Nola was the only relevant character who could have set up the site… and when Maddy died, it became clear that the site’s author = the murderer. The why wasn’t that difficult to guess; we knew Nola had been bullied and Kay was probably understating how much. Kay has one character trait and it is understatement.
• TW: antisemitism and maybe ableism. At some point, Nola tells Kay she’s Jewish. Then we discover that Nola is a pathological liar (killers are always mentally ill!), so we can’t be sure she wasn’t lying again, but her being Jewish is never contradicted. Now, I don’t think I need to explain why writing the only Jewish character as a pathological liar is not a good thing.
Was that necessary?
/END spoilers; no spoilers in text below
Also, don’t get into this if you want any realism because there’s none (…it almost felt like a paranormal story). I won’t nitpick and say “this and that were unrealistic!” because nothing here felt even remotely real. I didn’t have a problem with this, but I think it’s better to know it before getting into the book.
Trigger warnings I haven’t listed yet because I didn’t think they were flaws: suicide, death, animal harm, animal death.
My rating: ★★★½