At Foxham Prep, a posh private school for the children of DC’s elite, a single rumor has the power to ruin a life.
Nobody knows that better than Bryn. She used to have it all—the perfect boyfriend, a bright future in politics, and even popularity, thanks to her best friend, cheer captain Cora. Then one mistake sparked a scandal that burned it all to the ground.
Now it’s the start of a new school year and the spotlight has shifted: It’s geeky Georgie, newly hot after a summer makeover, whose name is on everyone’s lips. When a rumor ignites, Georgie rockets up the school’s social hierarchy, pitting her and Cora against each other. It grants her Foxham stardom . . . but it also makes her a target.
As the rumors grow and morph, blazing like wildfire through the school’s social media, all three girls’ lives begin to unravel. But one person close to the drama has the power to stop the gossip in its tracks. The question is—do they even want to?
From Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra, authors of the Tiny Pretty Things duology (now a Netflix series), comes the edge-of-your-seat social thriller everyone will be talking about.
**The Rumor Game comes out March 1, 2022**
Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
CW: bullying/cyber bullying, sexual abuse, assault, weight loss, body image, fat phobia, racism
How can a lie be that big?
Isn’t that a question, hmm? If I wanted to summarize what this book was about in one line, it’d be this. Do we think rumors, especially the ones not rooted in the truth, can really lead into something far bigger?
The simple answer: yes. And authors Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra attempt to show just how through this story.
The Rumor Game was something I really wanted to love. But the subject matter, even with the warnings, makes it hard. It’s not a book meant to induce warm fuzzy feelings but it was hard to swallow at times.
The story revolves around 3 girls. Bryn has been bullied since summer, falling from grace with everyone, including her best friend, due to a horrible incident she regrets. Cora is the it girl, but with new rumors surrounding her and her boyfriend, even her once-untouchable relationship is in everyone’s mouths. And not all the words were nice. Georgie wants to reinvent herself now that she lost weight but with newfound popularity comes unwanted attention and comments.
Two people realize that it’s no longer an act when they veer off-script in this sizzling romantic comedy by New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory.
Ben Stephens has never bothered with serious relationships. He has plenty of casual dates to keep him busy, family drama he’s trying to ignore and his advertising job to focus on. When Ben lands a huge ad campaign featuring movie star Anna Gardiner, however, it’s hard to keep it purely professional. Anna is not just gorgeous and sexy, she’s also down to earth and considerate, and he can’t help flirting a little…
Anna Gardiner is on a mission: to make herself a household name, and this ad campaign will be a great distraction while she waits to hear if she’s booked her next movie. However, she didn’t expect Ben Stephens to be her biggest distraction. She knows mixing business with pleasure never works out, but why not indulge in a harmless flirtation?
But their lighthearted banter takes a turn for the serious when Ben helps Anna in a family emergency, and they reveal truths about themselves to each other, truths they’ve barely shared with those closest to them.
When the opportunity comes to turn their real-life fling into something more for the Hollywood spotlight, will Ben be content to play the background role in Anna’s life and leave when the cameras stop rolling? Or could he be the leading man she needs to craft their own Hollywood ending?
When it comes to romantic contemporaries, I applaud Jasmine Guillory for creating such fantastically real and charming characters. In this sixth installment that features cameos of some fan favourites in her previous novels, While We Were Dating follows Ben Stephens, younger brother of a certain charming Theo Stephens, in his own endeavours with a Hollywood actress he’s working with.
I think the ordinary citizen meets celebrity trope is an interesting one that can either be something I really love or think it completely missed the mark. I unfortunately land closer to the latter with this novel. Maybe it comes down to both the individual characters and their romantic relationship.
Ben was someone who just liked to have a good time with many different women (no judgment), but was always a gentleman to every woman he was with. He avoided issues related to his dad and was seeing a therapist to maintain a healthy balance in the things he’s acknowledged need working in his life (kudos to him for this!). Meanwhile, Anna was just returning to the acting scene after a hard year struggling with anxiety on her own that made working as an actress particularly difficult. She was focused on building her career and didn’t have time for a relationship (that’s cool, I like a focused, ambitious woman). But I didn’t feel like this really made them three-dimensional characters. It was just one aspect of each of them, and it felt kind of bland to only focus on these “defining” traits because that’s what would fill the story and be the issues they’d have to conquer.
However, when these two were together, I can feel the sexual chemistry, for sure. That’s a given. But that doesn’t make for a relationship. They always just wanted to get into bed, and I wanted a bit more for them. Yes, Ben supported Anna when she most needed it, but the way they never quite worked out their issues together for most of the story bothered me.
If you’re a fan of the fake dating trope, that’s also thrown in here, but unfortunately at quite a late time in the novel. I wished we got to this part sooner because it was a little slow going prior to this decision. Perhaps more of the fake dating aspect would’ve made the story pace better, and given the romantic leads more than just chemistry to make their relationship feel real.
The ending was also at a point in time right where I was excited for what was about to happen. I suppose it wasn’t absolutely necessary to include the conversation I so desperately was curious about, but after setting up so much of Ben’s growth arc on that particular issue, I would’ve thought we would get more closure on it.
Regardless of my thoughts on the ending and romance of it, I always appreciate a book that highlights anxiety and mental health. We need to normalize more books discussing mental health, particularly in POC communities. I loved the way it was effortlessly placed in the story and how it impacted both Ben and Anna. People with anxiety definitely need a great support system to help, and I speak this with experience.
While this was probably my least favourite of Jasmine’s books, if you loved some of her other works, especially The Wedding Party, the book may work better for you than it did for me. I wouldn’t write it off completely.
While We Were Dating definitely featured some of the characters we’ve come to love in Jasmine Guillory’s other books, but I had a hard time loving our MCs, Ben and Anna. The ordinary citizen meets celebrity trope just didn’t work for me here when it felt like the only thing drawing these two together was sheer sexual chemistry and nothing else. Their individual characters felt too one-dimensional, focusing on one major aspect of their character or a current issue they were struggling with. The slower pacing for most of the book also made it hard to feel like continuing at times, but the fake dating trope that surprisingly was thrown in at a later point helped propel me to the end. I wished it was there earlier. The only highlight was the lovely normalization of mental health and therapy written throughout the novel that shows us how important this is, in both good times and the bad. I will still look forward to future books from Guillory but I hope it’ll settle better for me than this one did.
The highly anticipated, edge-of-your-seat conclusion to the addictive A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series that reads like your favorite true crime podcast or show. By the end, you’ll never think the same of good girls again.
Pip’s good girl days are long behind her. After solving two murder cases and garnering internet fame from her crime podcast, she’s seen a lot.
But she’s still blindsided when it starts to feel like someone is watching her. It’s small things at first. A USB stick with footage recording her and the same anonymous source always asking her: who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears? It could be a harmless fan, but her gut is telling her danger is lurking.
When Pip starts to find connections between her possible stalker and a local serial killer, Pip knows that there is only one choice: find the person threatening her town including herself–or be as good as dead. Because maybe someone has been watching her all along…
Save herself to save herself.
Where do I even begin? If you’ve read my reviews of book 1 and book 2 in this series, you’d know how much I absolutely adored Holly Jackson’s writings. Both were a 5-star rating and I guess my expectations just soared too high in a way. Even after taking a day or two to process my feelings, I think this is the best way that I can articulate it all.
The plot and pacing
The writing(at least for the first half of the book) was just as splendid and well thought out as I’ve come to expect in Holly’s previous books. It was definitely darker than the first two books as now Pip, our favourite amateur detective, is potentially a victim of a crime than just objectively investigating one.
Likewise, this made the pacing go by quite quickly as she tries to outwit the stalker who first made a minor appearance in book 2. I particularly loved how so many little things that popped up in her first two cases can be somehow linked back to this most personal case yet. Things that made sense in the course of her investigations for the other crimes can still create new mysteries for this current one. Talk about full circle moments! Pip is always going on about that, but it’s so true. Everything that has brought her to this point in her life is tied to what is happening to her now, and I absolutely loved it. Holly Jackson is a genius plotting this.
The format is more like a regular book instead of the cool texts and interview formats that were more present in her other cases. Regardless of this, the writing was excellent here and I was on edge to find out what’ll happen next.
Then the second half of the book hits and it’s…different. The suspense immediately dies down because, well, the story isn’t a whodunnit anymore. That’s my favourite part in mysteries, by the way, and the previous books in the series didn’t show their hand so quickly.
The rest of the story drags a little in my opinion. It’s a lot of Pip’s meticulous brain planning and all of this clearly marks the end of the series since it’s so different from how her other cases resolved. A part of me even wanted to take a break from this book because it was dark and conflicting.
Characterization of Pip
This brings me to Pip herself. I loved her as a protagonist. She’s brilliant for an 18-year-old and carries herself like she’s on equal footing with all the adults she interviews. She’s confident and bold, loyal and empathetic. She’s a good girl who loves her family and works hard in her studies.
Now, I know some people really enjoy morally grey characters in their books. I’m not necessarily opposed to that. It’s interesting to dive deep into a morally grey character’s thoughts up front. But I think it’s different when the trajectory of the character arc goes from “good girl” to morally grey without it turning into a villain arc. And here is where I’m conflicted.
I understand in the aftermath of the 2 previous cases how that unsettled her, changed her, and left her rather traumatized. In fact, she’s hiding a lot of her PTSD from her family, friends and even Ravi. I get her motivations, I get where she’s coming from.
So do I see how her character arc turned this way? Yes. But do I think it had to be the only way her story could’ve gone in order to end this series realistically? Not necessarily, but for the most part, I accepted it as I continued along.
Romance with Ravi
Let’s take a little breather to talk about romance! Like the other books, it’s definitely not a focal point by any means but sometimes less words is more. I love the secret way Pip and Ravi communicated that they loved each other. They understood each other. Even though so many bad things had to have happened to bring them together, they were meant to be.
This third book showcases maybe even more so than the others the lengths their love for one another goes. I personally LOVE Ravi. He’s sarcastic, uses humor as his fear tactic, and is loyal to a fault. He wears his emotions on his sleeves and loves Pip with all he’s got. Who wouldn’t want a Ravi in their life? And As Good As Dead doesn’t ruin this one beautiful thing.
Now onto the ending (without spoilers, of course)
I don’t have many words to share without spoilers except that I was disappointed in some ways. I shed a tear or two. I thought Pip’s decisions were just driving things towards a pretty sad ending.
While I don’t think it is necessarily a sad ending by any means, it is a bit open-ended so I don’t feel like I have the closure I would want for Pip and co. I loved following her, Ravi, her family, Cara, the Reynolds brothers, even Nat throughout all the books. These were the people she helped, the ones she fought for, the ones impacted by the cases she followed. Do I feel like I got to see how this final case impact everybody? No, I don’t.
Do I feel like Pip dealt with all the baggage her cases dropped onto her? Heck no.
If I was a tiny bit upset at the mid point, the ending didn’t make it better. I’d like to imagine what would happen after the actual ending because I still feel frustrated that I turned the page and there was no more. I normally enjoy open endings if they’re done well, leaves things up to the imagination of the reader. This is more about closure and not receiving much of any.
Kudos to Holly Jackson. She took a creative idea and really took it to such great heights. What a feat! There is so much imagination and creativity in here, the depths of research to write some of the subject matter, the well-thought out plot points across THREE books.
I will always point people to this series, even non-readers. It’s just that good. I may not have agreed with everything she chose to end in this book, but I can understand the vision she had for it and at least accept that. Because I love the art of it, I kept my rating a little higher than I initially thought I would go.
This may be more of an unpopular opinion and you may end up loving Holly’s vision. If so, even better. As Good As Dead may not have been the conclusion I had envisioned, but it’s a remarkable enough finale to keep readers thinking (and discussing) about it for ages to come.
As Good As Dead concludes the trilogy with a conflicting and darker story as Pip now deals with a personal crime of her own. The formatting is more like a regular story, but the excellent writing and pacing still shines through. I was so tense throughout the first half of the book! When the story took a different turn, I can’t say I loved the morally grey character arc Pip was given, but I understood why it happened this way. I might’ve preferred a different second half, particularly the ending, but I can appreciate the full circle moments Holly Jackson incorporated from all the books in this series. Regardless of my personal feelings on this last book, I highly recommend A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series to anyone looking for a good read.