The whole idea behind Someone I Wanted to Be was a marvelous one, with promises of a teenage girl pretending to be someone she isn’t in order to get attention that she doesn’t get anywhere else. While it sounded like it was going to be a somewhat sad tale, at the same time I was sure that there were going to be some happy moments in there somewhere, instead of just a whole bunch of depressing elements in the main character’s life wrapped together to form a book.
Leah is a fifteen year old girl who hasn’t had an easy life. She is tormented at school constantly for her weight, her best friend, Kristy, talks down to her and abandons her randomly, leaving Leah to face school alone. Her mother isn’t like any kind of mother she had hoped for, spending more time in front of the television with wine than with Leah.
So when Kristy, Leah, and their friend Corrine talk an older guy, Kurt, into buying them some beer, Kurt gives Leah his phone number to give to Kristy, with hopes that she will call him. Leah tells Kurt that Kristy’s name is Ashley, and she doesn’t give Kristy his number – instead, she keeps it and calls Kurt, pretending to be “Ashley.”
“My body tingles like every cell had lit up. I wasn’t exactly happy, but I was alive. It was different. I was somewhere else. No Cindy, no crappy little apartment, no Kristy. There was me. Leah. I was dreaming, wide awake and dreaming, the best place to be.”
Leah and Kurt end up talking on the phone a lot, all the while Kurt thinking he’s really talking to “Ashley,” or the skinny little blonde girl we know as Kristy. As things spiral out of control with Leah and Kurt and the lie that she has created, Leah begins to wonder how she can solve the problem before Kristy gets hurt.
There is a lot going on in this book. Kristy’s character might seem like a horrible friend and a person that would make the cast of Mean Girls cringe, but at the same time, she is going through some really difficult things at home that would make anyone act out, so once you learn more about her, you kind of understand her a little better (although it’s no excuse for her to constantly call Leah “Chubs,” and be so mean to her).
Leah’s mom, Cindy, doesn’t seem to be cut out to be a single mom after the death of Leah’s father, Paul, but she doesn’t have much of a choice. She has struggled, but made it work. She works in a dentist office, but her existence is lonely – after work, she comes home, sits in front of the television, gives herself manicures, and drinks wine until she falls asleep. While this leaves Leah in charge of her own devices for the most part, I still don’t think it warrants Leah calling her “Cindy” instead of “Mom” throughout the whole book.
The things that Leah had to face in school were just terrible, and to be honest, it reminded me of my own days in high school, which is probably why I felt for her character. Kids in school made animal sounds at her and called her horrible names, such as “Fat-Ass” every time she walked by. This was horribly depressing, and I honestly thought that at some point in the book, something positive would happen to Leah that would shut the kids up or make them at least feel bad for what they said to her, but no…nothing like that. Talk about realistic fiction.
Speaking of nothing good happening here…this was seriously one of the most depressing books I have read in a while. It’s all about how crappy Leah’s life is, and the only thing that can be called a silver lining here is the fact that Leah makes a new friend, Anita, and starts to date the school nerd, Carl. At least, I think they’re dating…it really isn’t revealed as a one hundred percent thing, but it seems like they like each other, and they start hanging out, so I’m going to go ahead and guess. Honestly, the beginning of the this book, the end of this book, and the middle of this book are just depressing. You would think that something good would happen to Leah, to make her not care about all the people who call her names and make her life hell, but no, it really doesn’t. It’s just…sad.
The whole thing with Kurt was understandable – after all, Leah receives no positive attention from anyone else in the world, so what else can be expected? Of course she is going to jump on the chance at attention, even if it isn’t the kind she should be Even that got creepy…and well, disgusting – he’s older (we’re talking ten years here) than the girls. This really made me really sick, to be honest. Did the guy really need to be that old in order for this book to come together? He couldn’t simply be eighteen (I mean, that’s still a bit old, but not as wrong) or something?
So many things about this book just bothered me, but I found the writing engaging and it made me want to keep reading until I was finished, so I give the author plenty of credit for that. I just found the lack of happy, positive things going on in this book to be nonexistent. I mean, Leah had no self esteem, and it’s no wonder why – no one treats her like a real person – just someone they can constantly make fun of and hurt. I probably would have rated this book higher if it had at least one happy moment where Leah was appreciated, but it didn’t happen.