If I’m Being Honest is a fun twist on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. If you or your students love rom-coms like Ten Things I Hate About You and Legally Blonde, you won’t want to miss this cute story of a modern-day “Kate” who decides to tame herself.
PUBLICATION DATE: April 23, 2019
SOURCE: Brooklyn Public Library OverDrive
GENRE: realistic fiction, romance, retelling
SETTING: Los Angeles, present day
GIVE IT TO: Grades 8+
Cameron Bright is a high school senior and a major mean girl. She knows everyone thinks she’s a b*tch, and she’s fine with that. If they can’t handle her brutal honesty, then that’s their problem.
But when a boy Cameron likes–really, really likes–shuts her out because she is so mean, Cameron decides to give herself a personality makeover. Drawing inspiration from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Cameron sets out to apologize to the people she has wronged in her life.
THE SHORT VERSION
Loved it! Sweet and contemplative. Makes me want to be a better person, too.
WHAT I LIKED
I’ve read a good amount of adult nonfiction lately, so it felt really good to sink my teeth into a well-written YA fiction novel again! I (unintentionally) read most of If I’m Being Honest in one sitting, and I loved it! Characterizations go beyond typical high school stereotypes, and Cameron’s growth throughout the novel never feels forced or rushed.
And there’s Shakespeare! The Taming of the Shrew isn’t my favorite Shakespeare play, but it works really well as a parallel to Cameron’s story. Taming is referenced often because the characters are reading it in their senior English class. The characters even debate Kate’s character and whether or not she actually needs “taming.” It’s very well-done and complements the play nicely. Whether they’ve read Taming or not, readers will come away with a better understanding of the play simply because they have read this story.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Romance, whether YA or adult, tends to be predictable. This book is no exception. I could have told you from the first few chapters who Cameron would end up with and how the situation with her overbearing father would turn out. If you’re looking for a surprise twist, you won’t find it here.
Ugh to the weak mothers. We see three mothers in the story. One mother is a minor character who pops up repeatedly. She might be okay, but we don’t know enough about her to say for sure. The other two mothers are too weak to stand up to the overbearing, asshole men in their lives. Even Cameron is weak when it comes to her cruel father, a man she never sees and barely knows. Though Cameron’s mother gets some redemption at the end, she comes off as ridiculous and childish for most of the book.
You are mothers, ladies. The time to be weak and silly passed when you had children. Grow up. Stop sniveling. Find your spine. Your children may be teens, but they still need you.
LIBRARIANS WILL WANT TO KNOW
There is strong language, including a few F-bombs. No sex beyond kissing, references to male body parts (“junk”), and multiple references to “hooking up.”
The book’s very first word is “Bitch,” which could raise some eyebrows for casual book flippers.
Themes: bullying, being true to oneself, brutal honesty, friendship, single parents, depression, extreme parental expectations, private school scholarship students, socioeconomic inequality
Would adults like If I’m Being Honest?
Yes! I loved the strength of Cameron’s character and the sweet romance.
Would I buy this for my high school library?
100% yes. I have no concerns about content for high schoolers. The story is well-written, engrossing, and full of Shakespeare references.
Would I buy this for my middle school library?
Yes, but I do advise caution for libraries serving more conservative areas or parochial schools. I rated it for Grades 8+ because of the F-bombs and references to “hooking up.” I haven’t personally worried about F-bombs in my middle school books. I hear worse in the hallways outside the library, even from sixth graders (some of the worst offenders are sixth graders). My 7th grade son is no stranger to profanity in movies, books, and music. I also curse at home sometimes, and I know he hears it from his friends. I would never prevent him from reading a book simply because it contained curse words. (I would never prevent him from reading a book, period. Read away, kiddo.)
As for “hooking up,” students can just as easily think this just means making out or kissing. There aren’t any details in the book about what “hooking up” refers to.
WHAT DO LIBRARIANS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IF I’M BEING HONEST:
Language: moderate; includes 3 F-bombs, 1 sl*t, multiple sh** and b*tch, references to male body parts (“junk”)
Sexuality: light-moderate; kissing; a boy and girl kiss and fall asleep in the same bed (they are fully-clothed and on top of the blankets); multiple references to “hooking up”
Violence: minimal; verbal bullying and mean girl stuff
Drugs/Alcohol: minimal; two references to a peripheral character who smokes pot. No one likes this character, and the pot-smoking and womanizing behaviors make him look like a total loser.
BOOKTALK OR DISPLAY THIS WITH:
Have you read If I’m Being Honest? What did you think? Do you think books that reference “hooking up” are inappropriate for middle school libraries?