Life By Committee by Corey Ann Haydu
Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Publish Date: May 13, 2014
Source: Book – Library, Audiobook – Library
Find it here: Goodreads / Amazon
Some secrets are too good to keep.
Tabitha might be the only girl in the history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. But her so-called friends say she’s changed, and they’ve dropped her flat.
Now Tab has no one to tell about the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her: Joe, who spills his most intimate secrets to her in their nightly online chats. Joe, whose touch is so electric, it makes Tab wonder if she could survive an actual kiss. Joe, who has Tabitha brimming with the restless energy of falling in love. Joe, who is someone else’s boyfriend.
Just when Tab is afraid she’ll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she finds Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe.
Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she’d ever go on her own.
But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go? (Goodreads)
I think what I loved the most about Life By Committee was the fact that it felt so much like part of my high school experience, minus the big scene at the end (thankfully!). Even though Tabby was not the most likable character that I’ve ever read, I did love her, and I think that’s because I felt compassion for her. Let me explain what I mean exactly:
1. Tabby has changed. Tabby’s teenage body is changing. She is experimenting with new clothing styles and caring more about how she looks. Her clothing is accentuating her features, sure, and others are noticing, sure – this is sort of a problem for Tabby. Her ex-BFF has begun to pull her aside and offer snide, unsolicited “advice” about how she should look and what others are saying about her – her teachers have also done this. Tabby’s friends are snubbing her because they’re jealous, and Tabby is grieving the loss of these relationships. She doesn’t understand why people can be so mean – and honestly, this is something that I have never figured out myself, even as an adult.
2. Tabby likes Joe – a lot. The problem with this is that Joe has a girlfriend, and this is very public knowledge. Joe and Sasha are one of the it-couples around school. Tabby and Joe are spending lots of time having these really great online chat sessions on the side, though, and Joe makes Tabby’s heart flutter wildly. Joe is dreamy, Joe is popular, Joe says the right things. But Joe is also aloof, emotionally distant at times, and not even considering breaking up with his actual girlfriend. Tabby could use someone trustworthy to talk to about this, but remember that her friends have abandoned her and her parents are entirely other issue that I’ll get to in a second. The Tabby + Joe thing could very easily BLOW UP if not handled with care.
3. Tabby finds a secret website community: Life By Committee. Of course Tabby checks it out. Of course she becomes a part of LBC. With a giant, gaping hole in her life in the shape of friends and family, Tabby finds solace in the anonymous people there, the ones that patiently listen to her secrets and problems. There are rules that go along with being a part of LBC: when you share a secret, you then get advice (aka an assignment), and you have a certain amount of time to complete it, or — well, maybe your secret isn’t safe anymore. Tabby feels comfort in the advice offered to her. She also becomes attached to some of the other members and even wonders if she could possibly know some of them in real life. Soon, Tabby seems to care more about the attention and interaction of LBC than real, honest interaction, and this is another problem in and of itself.
Life By Committee by Corey Ann Haydu is such a different, great book. In some ways, it felt like being back in high school with some of these characters and situations. I loved the sometimes-unlikable-Tabby, but I also felt almost-protective over her; she did some things that made me cringe but I always rooted for her and wanted the very best for her. If I knew Tabby only in real life, I don’t know if I would have felt this same way. I love the wake-up-call that this book gave me both times that I’ve read it: there is more to a person than appearance plus we never really know what people are going through until we take the time to get to know them. Tabby is much more than tight shirts and short skirts, more than someone that fell for another girl’s boyfriend. In the story, the LBC community helped Tabby grow some as a person (so yes there is character development) but ultimately I think that it was something much better than the LBC community that helped her to be the person she is at the end of the book.
I love that Tabby still has growing and improving to do when the story ends. That’s how life is! One short moment in time does not define all of the growing and changing we have to do as individuals. At the end of this story, there is resolution to the specific time period of this story, but Tabby’s story of growth and change is not over.
That’s high school and the teenage years. I LOVED IT.
Regarding Tabby’s thing with Joe: so tricky, because nobody likes a cheater. I don’t necessarily think it is wrong to find yourself with a crush on someone else if they have a girlfriend/boyfriend. But that isn’t exactly what happens here, and Tabby doesn’t help her case any with what’s going on with Joe. AND PLEASE, let’s not give Joe a get-out-of-jail-free card. What an excellently-written character, here. Joe’s actions, unlikable as they are, are very important to the story because they support and spur-on so much of what Tabby says and does, which ultimately progresses to the big ending. I cannot say that I like Joe very much, but I CAN say that I have known people just like him, and I’m so interested in WHY behavior like Joe’s exists. This guy contributed to making things hard for Tabby. Boo to him, but he certainly helped tell this story.
Regarding Tabby’s parents: they don’t suck and they aren’t really the ‘unavailable’ type. The author has given this character parents that are present, but that have some very specific life circumstances that they need to handle. So interesting, and this is a real-life thing: good parents that become a little preoccupied at times, perhaps needing to recheck their priorities. Tabby knows she is lucky to have her particular parents, but she also realizes that this is one of the times in her life that she needs them and they’re wrapped up in other things. I loved the ‘Tabby + her parents’ part of the story, gosh I LOVED it. This subplot is so rich, and I appreciate the way that it was written so, so much.
Life By Committee by Corey Ann Haydu is a really great cross-section of a small part of Tabby’s life. It’s neat that Tabby is the type of character examined here, because WOW the perspective we get to see by looking at her thoughts and online communications vs. JUST her appearance? Awesome. Fantastic book, so much to think about here. Great, great character that caused me to think, not once but twice! It’s great to read about characters that aren’t cookie-cutter, that aren’t always perfect and likable, because THESE are the real-life stories that are actually the people that are going to school with us and that may be our kids one day, that we may be teaching in our classrooms, that we may be seeing walking down our sidewalks. This is my first book by Corey Ann Haydu. NO WAY, no way will it be my last.
Great Main Character