by Corrie Wang
To be published by Disney/Freeform
on April 11, 2017
Source: eARC for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: Kyla Cheng doesn't expect you to like her. For the record, she doesn't need you to. On track to be valedictorian, she's president of her community club, a debate team champ, plus the yummy Mackenzie Rodriguez has firmly attached himself to her hip. She and her three high-powered best friends don't just own their senior year at their exclusive Park Slope, Brooklyn high school, they practically define the hated species Popular. Kyla's even managed to make it through high school completely unscathed. Until someone takes issue with this arrangement. A week before college applications are due, a video of Kyla "doing it" with her crush-worthy English teacher is uploaded to her school's website. It instantly goes viral, but here's the thing: it's not Kyla in the video. With time running out, Kyla delves into a world of hackers, haters and creepy stalkers in an attempt to do the impossible-take something off the internet-all while dealing with the fallout from her own karmic footprint.My take: I expected The Takedown to be a glossy and superficial, like a Pretty Little Liars set in the future. I was partly right - this is a fast paced, provocative story of mean girls and revenge peppered with futuristic SMS slang. But it's more than that -- it's also a sharply observed, unapologetically honest look at girls and friendship and sexuality and social media. It's set in the not-too-far future, a world where social media and technology have eroded privacy and wormed into our lives to an even greater degree.
Kyla's not a "nice" girl. She doesn't apologize for being pretty unlikable. She's a Queen Bee who rules her foursome of friends with an iron fist and a sharp tongue. One day during senior year, Kyla sees a weird countdown on her phone. After the minutes tick down, a mysterious someone releases a video of Kyla having sex with a teacher.
Kyla may be guilty of social crimes, but she's not the person in the video. Somehow it's been faked, presumably by someone who hates her, and she admits there's a list. One interesting thing this book pulls off is making Kyla completely unsympathetic until the video drops. After everyone turned on her and believed she's guilty, I started feeling sorry for her and rooting for her to succeed. If anyone could track and trap someone guilty of revenge porn, it's a tough-as-nails, take-no-prisoners person like Kyla.
A few weeks ago, I read another book that dealt with issues of female friendship, female sexuality and revenge. I thought that book alternated between recycling stale notions of women and sex, and repeating stale platitudes.
Unlike that book, The Takedown takes lots of commonly-held ideas about women and sex and friendship, then turns them around and around so that the reader can examine them from a multitude of different angles. Kyla's role model in the book is a (future) female president of the United States. But an equally famous character is an anonymous girl who posts "bra and panty" videos of herself online. Kyla thinks that girl is a slut. The book asks us: is a woman who willingly releases her own sexy videos a feminist heroine, or a victim of a culture that objectifies women? When a mean girl gets her comeuppance, are we supposed to cheer about that? Why is there a double standard that forces women to a "nice girl" or be deemed unlikable? To be a "good" girl or be deemed a slut?
I cringed sometimes at Kyla's interactions with others, but really enjoyed watching her pursue her tormentor with ruthless determination. As she fights to find the person who faked and posted the video, she learns a lot about how others view her and has to come to terms with her own strengths and weaknesses as a person.
Really enjoyed this and look forward to what Corrie Wang writes next!