Tuesday, October 30, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl You Thought I Was by Rebecca Phillips

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Title: The Girl You Thought I Was
Author: Rebecca Phillips
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 357
Pub Date: July 31, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Book Source: publisher via edelweiss
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Synopsis: No one looking at Morgan Kemper would think she had a secret-at least not one that she's deeply ashamed of. To everyone she meets, she comes across as sweet, pretty, and put together. But Morgan knows that looks can be deceiving. For over a year, she's shoplifted countless pieces of clothing and makeup. Each time she tells herself it will be the last, and each time it never is.

But when she's caught and sentenced to thirty hours of community service, the image Morgan has carefully constructed starts to crumble. She's determined to complete her punishment without her friends discovering the truth about her sticky fingers, but that's easier said than done...Especially once she meets Eli, the charming, handsome nephew of the owner of the charity shop where Morgan is volunteering. Soon, Morgan is faced with an impossible decision: continue to conceal the truth or admit that she's lied to everyone in her life, including the boy she's falling for.
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*** POSSIBLE SPOILERS ***

Morgan Kemper is pretty, popular, and has it together—at least from the outside. Inside, she is struggling. Morgan's mom had an affair and left home to be with her new lover. Morgan's emotional upset over this has caused her to develop a case of kleptomania (as we are led to believe). Morgan has a strong urge to steal again and again. It began with small items such as lipstick, but has gotten out of control with Morgan stealing items worth hundreds of dollars. With the help of tips from fellow shoplifters in an online community message board, Morgan has lifted thousands of dollars worth of clothing, makeup, and accessories. Until...she is finally caught stealing a pair of sunglasses from the local mall.

As punishment for her (believed, not actual) first time theft, she is sentenced to do 30 hours of community service. Her dad finds her a volunteer op at a charity-based thrift shop. Morgan lies to her friends, saying she is volunteering for other reasons. While volunteering, she meets Eli. His aunt owns the thrift shop and he helps her out by volunteering there as well. Eli and Morgan become fast friends and, soon, much more than that. The problem? Morgan has also lied to Eli. He knows nothing about her thefts or why she is truly volunteering.

I adored the romance in this book. It was a slow-build, but a bit steamy. It was funny and snarky, but adorable. I enjoyed the dynamics between Morgan and Eli SO SO much! It's been awhile since I've read a well-developed YA romance such as this. Very very well done. Relationships are very much highlighted in this book—in all forms. Romance, friendship, and family. It was well-rounded and never focused on simply one thing.

Morgan is a complex character. She is not a bad person, simply angry. She is bitter about her mother leaving the family and about having to put on a perfect face for those around her. She literally just wants to be herself and be happy. She begins stealing as a result of the emotional stress of her mother betraying her father and leaving the home. It becomes an impulse and something she cannot seem to stop. This is the definition of kleptomania. It begins from emotional stressors and can become something huge, as it did in the case of Morgan. Even after Morgan has served her community service, come to terms with her family separating, and told her friends and Eli the truth, she still has the compulsion to steal. Only, after getting help, she is better equipped to deal with her urges. I think Rebecca Phillips did a great job of portraying the mental illness in this story.

Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot! The character development and plot were very well built. I enjoyed the romance immensely—it wasn't instalove and it wasn't too immature, it was just the right amount of cute and steamy for a teen read. The focus on relationships is obvious and well done. Morgan meanders through familial discord as well as that of friendships and love. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a very well put together YA contemporary!
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