Summary (from the publisher)
When Kori Kitlzer, the “dark angel” of the 8th grade, tells Serena Moore that they are more alike than she thinks, Serena is instantly intrigued. As their friendship solidifies and their lives entwine, Serena tries to become more like the fearless, outspoken, and ambitious Kori. Soon Serena doesn’t know where she begins and Kori ends. But when a twist of fate yanks Kori away from Serena, she will need to find a way to complete her best friend’s life left undone.
Undone is a striking debut novel about friendship, family, and the secrets we keep from the people to whom we are closest.
Grade: A // Wow.
(Thank you to the lovely Brooke Taylor for sending me this ARC!)
Can't quote - ARC. But it's got a ton of funny quotes which you should check out!
How I came across this ARC was a complete surprise. I emailed Brooke Taylor on the beginning days of my blog just to tell her I was looking forward to her release in July, and Brooke emailed me back offering me her book. See? Quick and unexpected. If that doesn’t give you a positive predisposition to like a book, nothing does.
Undone wastes no time meandering along the surface. The very first page, containing the prologue, depicts the first acquaintance between destined-to-be-best-friends Kori and Serena. Serena runs into Kori in the bathroom and Kori, lighting a cigarette and taking a drag, tells Serena that, for some ungodly reason, they’re more alike than she thinks. This statement, because of its elusiveness, still haunts Serena two years since the bathroom encounter that inaugurated her and Kori’s close-knit friendship. Striking, this is; it’s not until later the reader figures out this very scene is where the heart, the core, the key to the story lie.
As previously mentioned, two years have passed, and the girls—having grown so very close in the meantime—are now sophomores. They’re given an assignment to list the five things they want to happen in the next six months—their five ways to tempt fate. Of course, Serena scoffs at it. But then something tragic happens to Kori, and Kori’s list of five things becomes an important artifact—not only to figuring out the mystery of her tragedy, but also to following through with Kori’s desire not to leave anything undone.
So, anyway, Serena is left estranged to the world and life itself without her best friend. What’s more, while she’s always been very mindful of her and Kori’s blatant differences, the deeper she digs in making sense of what happened, the less she sees the Kori she thought she knew. This is devastating in itself because, not knowing what the entity that is Kori stands for anymore, Serena, in turn, doesn’t know herself any longer, either.
However, life still goes on. At home, Serena’s mother is still the same: Not trying to understand Serena or the pain she’s going through. Instead, she’s focused on maintaining the same flawless front she’s always kept to avoid rumors from the small-town community she reckons still condemns her for getting pregnant with Serena as a teenager. Oh, and of course, she still won’t let Serena on to who her father is.
At school, teachers allow a grace period for Serena to readjust, but grace periods don’t last forever and Serena’s not ready to go back to routine yet. There are also her two other friends, Lexi and Cole, who try to divert her attention, but to no avail. And then there’s Anthony, and their "relationship", which she can’t make sense of.
Serena lets it all float away while she tries to figure out Kori’s secrets, and, in so, figure out herself.
To say this is a novel about finding yourself is to simultaneously hit the mark and to sell it short, because while that is precisely what it is, when I finished reading it, I felt it accomplished much more than the "finding yourself" bit. Thing is, it’s hard to define Undone, if only because it fits so many categories and themes of self-discovery: mothers and daughters, best friends, first loves, first temptations, missing fathers, so on, so forth. The truth of the matter is, it touches on many topics worthy of exploration, such as parental abandonment, confusing relationships, friendships you feel are extraneous until you find out they’re not, drunken hookups, and many more I won’t go into detail here because it would ruin your reading experience.
Added to all of this, is ultimately what makes a sane person keep turning pages the most—a mystery. The plot is very clever (and, admittedly, sneaky) this way, filled with intricacies, and with hints right there in front of you all throughout, but that you don’t take notice until the very, very end.
But all of what I have said so far doesn’t even touch what struck me most about this novel, and that is its accessibility. Sure, it’s crammed with lessons, messages, and morals which the reader can’t help but at least consider while reading. However, the tone of Brooke Taylor’s writing never wavers from that of a witty, realistic teen, one who taps into your emotions, making you laugh, cry (yes, I did, literally), and feel what she’s feeling, in the purest, most pristine manner.
This book spoke very personally to me, and I’m sure it also will to many other girls (or boys, if they may be so bold as to read it) out there. I’d recommend it to anyone, but especially to reluctant readers, who are not going to be disappointed with Brooke Taylor’s voice.
Stellar debut, Brooke. Rest assured you left nothing, absolutely nothing, undone with this one.
Book QnA (with Brooke!)
Where did you get the idea for this book?
I saw a license plate that read “CCCCCF8” (Seize fate) and I started thinking about fate, and then about F8, which had this very modern gaming feel to it. My main character Serena, an introverted gaming girl, came to life and her best friend Kori jumped right in and took things over, as she’s apt to do.
Are you a computer “sourceress” like Serena?
I’ve been in the computer industry for many years, but from the networking side of things. I think it would be cool to be able to program games. If I could do that, I would definitely be a “sourceress.”
Did Undone change a lot from its first to final drafts?
In some ways yes. Like the plot had various changes to it. But really the characters Serena and Kori and their friendship never changed. And to me they are the heart of the story.
Which character did you have the most fun writing?
The “Cat Collector” was my favorite. Well, and Poor Josh. Kori was lots of fun, too.
Why did Kori keep things from Serena, specifically about their friendship?
Kori had her reasons, originally they were selfish but the more she got to know Serena, the more Kori’s reasons became about looking out for her.
What was your biggest challenge in writing this novel?
Keeping it short. I tend to write a lot more than is needed, so there are lots of scenes and snibbits on the cutting room floor!
What, if anything, do you hope the reader will take with them after finishing Undone?
So far the things people have taken from the book have varied and I think that is awesome. I think if I’d written Undone with a particular message in mind, it would’ve been hypocritical since Serena’s journey is one of finding yourself in your own way.