Take Her Down by Lauren Emily Whalen was a contemporary retelling of Julius Caesar- sort of. Jude has been betrayed, and this book tells you how.
All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may or may not reflect the published edition.
Overnight, Bronwyn St. James goes from junior class queen to daughter of an imprisoned felon, and she lands in the care of her aunt and younger cousin Cass, a competitive cheerleader who Bronwyn barely knows. Life gets worse when her ex-best friend, the always-cool Jude Cuthbert, ostracizes Bronwyn from the queer social elite for dating a boy, Porter Kendrick.
Bronwyn and Jude are both running for student body president, and that means war. But after Bronwyn, Porter, and Cass share a video of Jude in a compromising position, Jude suddenly goes missing. No one has seen her for weeks and it might be all Bronwyn’s fault.
Will Jude ever be found? Or will Bronwyn finally have to reckon with what she’s won—and what she’s lost?
Characters: 7 | Atmosphere: 8 | Writing: 8 | Plot: 5 | Intrigue: 5 | Logic: 8 | Enjoyment: 5
Total: 6.57 / 3 stars
“But now, I couldn’t sleep. What would happen to Jude Cuthbert? And was I a part of it?”
I picked this book up to review for a lot of reasons, but a major reason is that I’m a bisexual femme married to a cishet man. I know the biphobia this book describes firsthand and the way this book handled it felt well done. Whalen shows not just the perspective of the person experiencing the biphobia, but also the person perpetrating it. This gave these actions many layers, and while never excusing the behavior, making sense of it. However, at times, the book felt like it focused on identities more than the plot directly, which made me feel somewhat tired.
“Jude and that clique had always been about accepting people for exactly who they were. I guess, though, gay girls with boyfriends didn’t apply.”
The formatting of this story was extremely consumable. It’s laid out like verbal interviews that have been written out, and each point of view is a series of those. This made the characters more tangible, as you were hearing from their points of view fully while understanding they were telling the story to someone else. It created a level of balance and intrigue that most multiple POV stories seem to struggle with.
“Even looking back, even knowing what comes next, I still can’t believe my luck.”
This book’s biggest flaw is its pacing. There is this looming “what we did” that is pushed from the beginning of the book- however, you don’t find out what the actions are until around the 50% mark. Up until that mark, I honestly was starting to debate DNF’ing the book. It took so long to tell me what we were waiting on, the big peak of the story, that I was frustrated. Once that 50% mark hits, the story takes off running with heavier secrets revealed. I found myself forcing myself through the first half, and racing to finish the second half. This made the experience a bit jagged.
Overall, this is an interesting story with unique formatting and inspiration usage.
“For the B’s in LGBTQ+. I see you.”
(from the dedication)
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.