Review: No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace

No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace Book Review blog header

Published: September 8th, 2014 by Flux | Series: N/A | Length: 229 pages | Genre: YA contemporary romance | Source: Library | Possible Triggers: bullying

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Summary from Goodreads:

Sometimes, the cost of love is too steep

Olivia’s twin brother, Liam, has been her best friend her whole life. But when he starts dating, Olivia is left feeling alone, so she tries to drive away Liam’s girlfriends in an effort to get her best friend back.

But she meets her match in Zoey, Liam’s latest fling. A call-it-like-she-sees-it kind of girl, Zoey sees right through Olivia’s tricks. What starts as verbal sparring between the two changes into something different, however, as they share their deepest insecurities and learn they have a lot in common. Olivia falls for Zoey, believing her brother could never get serious with her. But when Liam confesses that he’s in love with Zoey, Olivia has to decide who deserves happiness more: her brother or herself?

I’d read a few of Amanda Grace’s novels in the past (I’m talking several years ago) and really liked them at the time. I somewhat recently found out about this one and immediately set out to read it. While I thought this was a quick and cute read, it wasn’t perfect and my thoughts on the book are a bit muddled. I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

My biggest problem is that the author ended up relying on very awkward dialogue just to avoid giving either Olivia or Zoey a label. I get that neither one of them really expected to be dating a girl and therefore they probably don’t feel confident in a specific label just yet, but still I wish the author had done something more than use phrases like “I don’t care that you’re… you know” and “you can still be perfect and be… this.” When referring to two girls dating, the characters almost always either let their thoughts trail off or just referred to it as “you know” or “this” like in those two examples I provided. Like I said, I’m not necessarily frustrated that there aren’t specific labels being used, considering both girls are just realizing they might be into girls. But I think the dialogue would’ve been much less awkward if characters simply said “I don’t care that you’re dating a girl” or “you can still be perfect and be into girls.” Is that really so hard? The way it was talked about in the book almost made it seem like the characters or the author (hard to tell which) were just completely uncomfortable with or grossed out by the idea of two girls dating. 

I really did enjoy Zoey and Olivia’s relationship, though. I love the enemies to lovers trope so I had a feeling I’d like their relationship right after reading that blurb. Olivia’s best friend, Ava, was really awful to Zoey and so Zoey and Olivia didn’t really get along either. Olivia assumed everything Ava said about Zoey was true and Zoey assumed that Olivia was just like Ava. But once they start spending time with each other as a result of being assigned partners for a school project and Zoey starting to date Olivia’s brother, Liam, they both start to realize the other may not be as awful as they thought. I really loved seeing them both start to open up to the other and see their friendship (and later, romantic relationship) grow. The two of them had me smiling so much because they were really cute.

no one needs to know quote 2

One thing I thought was missing from this book was any discussion of sexuality. Like I mentioned, this is the first time either girl is interested in another girl, as far as we’re aware. In reality, this kind of situation would likely cause each girl to do some serious thinking about their sexuality and what this means for them and their future. But neither one of them has any trouble accepting that they aren’t straight and they don’t even really have a discussion with each other about their attraction. I think this can be seen as both a positive and negative thing about the book, though. It obviously seems pretty unrealistic so if you’re looking for a realistic exploration of sexuality, this might not be the book for you. But at the same time, it treats attraction to the same gender as completely normal – no one is upset about it or distressed by it. If you’re looking for a cute f/f romance that doesn’t have a lot of angst, then this might be perfect for you. (I mean, there is angst, but it’s not about sexuality. It’s really about Olivia fearing how her brother will react to her stealing his girlfriend.)

There’s actually one other thing that bugged me: the way anxiety and more specifically, anxiety medication is handled in the book. This paragraph will have slight spoilers, so skip ahead if you want to avoid them. It’s nothing major, though. In the first chapter or two, readers find out that Olivia takes anti-anxiety medications. At first, I was excited because I always love to have mental illness represented in books. But I never really felt that anxiety was portrayed authentically. I’m hesitant to be too critical because I don’t know if the author has ever dealt with an anxiety disorder, but it really felt like a harmful portrayal to me. It felt like Olivia would take a Xanax every time something didn’t go her way – it wasn’t usually when she was feeling anxious, but rather upset. It almost felt as though the author had no idea what anxiety medication is actually used for. And then to make it even worse, Olivia decides not to get stressed out over small things anymore and throws out her medication. And this isn’t even passed off as an irresponsible decision except for Olivia saying she’ll probably have withdrawal effects. There’s no discussion of how not having medication will impact her otherwise. The book seemed to pass anti-anxiety medication off as something that people don’t really need and that can just be stopped whenever with no consequences. Olivia also makes a comment about how she didn’t really feel like she needed them at first either but her mom pressured her into using them, again seemingly indicating that anxiety medications are not really needed by those who use them. To me, this felt like a very irresponsible and inaccurate way of talking about medication used for mental health. 

no one needs to know quote 1

One last thing that I simply can’t forget to mention is the socioeconomic differences between Olivia and Zoey. Olivia and Liam are very rich; they live in a beachfront penthouse and have enough money from their parents to do whatever they want. Zoey, on the other hand, comes from a very poor family and lives in an unsafe part of town. I liked the discussions that took place between the characters about what it’s like to be rich or poor and how their socioeconomic status has impacted their lives. I’m frequently saying that I wish there were books with poor families/teens in YA that don’t focus on gang violence or something like that, so I was very happy to see this incorporated into No One Needs to Know. My one complaint is that Zoey starts off being very against well-off people giving her things or pitying her, but by the end of the book she’s totally fine with Olivia buying her things. It seemed a little too sudden to really be believable, but maybe I’m being nitpicky.

It’s probably pretty obvious that I’m still not really sure what to make of this book, especially considering the length of this review, haha. There were definitely a lot of things I liked – it was a quick read, very cute f/f couple, etc. – but there were also a fair amount of issues that I had, especially surrounding the way characters talked about attraction to the same gender and the way the anxiety medication was handled. Ultimately, I think if you’re looking for a cute f/f romance with little to no angst about sexuality, you’d enjoy this. Just be aware that it’s not a perfect story.

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