ARC Review - These Things I've Done

Title: These Things I've Done
Author: Rebecca Phillips
Publisher: Harper Teen
Series: n/a
Published: August 1, 2017
Source: Sent for review
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Before:Dara and Aubrey have been inseparable since they became best friends in sixth grade. However, as they begin their sophomore year of high school, cracks in their friendship begin to form, testing the bond they always thought was unbreakable.
After:It's been fifteen months since the accident that killed Aubrey, and not a day goes by that Dara isn't racked with guilt over her role in her best friend's death. Dara thought nothing could be worse than confronting the memories of Aubrey that relentlessly haunt her, but she soon realizes it isn't half as difficult as seeing Ethan, Aubrey's brother, every day. Not just because he's a walking reminder of what she did, but because the more her feelings for him change, the more she knows she's betraying her best friend one final time.


Most contemporary novels that I read are of the fluffy variety.  I tend to shy away from novels that have a tendency to make people cry because let's be honest, the real world is depressing enough so I don't need my fiction to be a downer too.  But seeing as this book was specifically recommended to me by someone who works for the publisher I decided to give it a go because I trust said person's judgment, and why not shake it up every now and then?  It turned out to be a pretty good choice, because not only was it a surprisingly quick read, several of the ideas it played with were quite interesting.

Obviously, the main idea the book plays with is guilt; how it changes you and how you deal with it.  Dara is wracked with it because of how her best friend died, because of her role in it.  But it's not only that, she starts to forget about what she did for small moments because she moved away, and then when she goes back to her hometown so she doesn't forget she starts to fall for her best friend's younger brother.  Watching her struggle with coming to terms with everything is honestly really frustrating at times, but that's what makes it feel so real.  It's not just guilt that's dealt with in the book though, there's also grief, friendship, courage, and healing, all of which are also done well.

The other thing that I think was done exceptionally well was the format of the book.  It was told in a now/then format, or in this case a sophomore/senior year format, which ended up working perfectly.  I also loved how elements from the "senior" chapters usually tied into elements from the following "sophomore" chapters.  That, combined with the fact that we got to see exactly how Aubrey (the best friend) died and everything that led up to it, really strengthened the story.  The last "sophomore" chapter was not just a punch in the gut, it was a necessary piece of the story that really brought everything together.

I did have a few qualms, although the biggest of them was just the name of the best friend's older brother, aka the love interest.  He has the same name as one of my younger brothers, which made reading the kissing scenes and such kinda awkward, which of course isn't really a problem.  I really only have one "problem" with the book, and it came at the very end and had to do with how Dara was pushed to overcome her anxiety over being on the road where her friend died.  It seemed pushy.  That was really it.  It would have been interesting to see how Aubrey and Ethan's parents reacted to Dara not only coming back to town, but coming back into Ethan's life in a rather significant way, but I can also see how it wasn't necessary to the story, especially considering we don't really see the parents at all in the flashbacks, so why would we see them in the present?

As a whole, I was pleased with this book (which is not a debut by the way- for the longest time I thought it was) and would recommend it to fans of heavier books along the lines of Thirteen Reasons Why. I can't say that the main plot will resonate with a large group of readers, seeing as I don't think there are that many teens out there that have accidentally killed their best friend, but the feelings it deals with (mainly guilt and grief) are sure to find a larger audience.  I should also note that while I didn't cry while reading this book, although there was some super-fast blinking, it definitely fits into the tear-jerker category so be careful about reading it in public.  That being said it was a pretty quick read because I wanted to see not only what happened next in the "senior" chapters, but how everything culminated in the "sophomore" chapters.  That momentum, something I'm not super used to in contemporary novels (and especially not in more intense contemporary novels) means I'm definitely going to check out her next book as well as investigate her backstock.

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