“I was going to become level one. And I was going to take down every single person on that pretty little list.”
High School Hit List is a richly character driven story that is ripe with teenage angst, drama and blackmail. It should read like a stereotypical teen novel which I usually abhor, but the effusive writing style and somewhat intriguing storyline had me burning the metaphorical midnight oil in order to finish this story.
At Arlington College, the rich and popular kids rule with school with vicious efficacy and ruthlessly take down and humiliate social climbers for fun. Chloe Whittaker’s best friend, Monica, was one of those social climbers and Chloe vows revenge against the people who ruined her friend’s life. She has a hit list with 9 names on it, starting with Lola Davenport, the queen bee of the level one crew. Chloe is set to infiltrate level one and they only way she can do that is through blackmailing one of the popular kids: William Bishop. But the closer she and Will grow, the more Chloe comes to care for him and realises a startling truth: perhaps Monica wasn’t always the person Chloe thought she was.
(Warning: some spoilers)
This is the first Wattpad story I have read and I quite enjoyed it. I am a massive supporter of original online fiction and am always on the prowl for well-written, character-driven novels. High School Hit List somewhat fits into that category.
The characters were by far the strongest element of this story. A large and diverse cast, each character felt well-developed and individual. The level one kids (the popular group) were all alluringly evil and cunning, so much so that you begin to love to hate them. The further Chloe undertook her take-down of the group and discovered secrets about them, the more the reader viewed the level one crew as actual people, as opposed to just a stereotypical popular teen.
Lola and Francis were the power couple of the school. They had long been promised to each other through their fathers, but that did not stop either of them from sleeping with half of the school and treating each other with disdain and disrespect. But their issues delved deeper than expected and the reader began to realise they were not as superficial as one thought they were at the beginning of the novel. I did not like them – I don’t think anyone can say they like them – but at least we could understand them.
I did fall in love with Zach and Max, especially when their secret was revealed. I love a good doomed, taboo romance and Zach and Max’s was rife with homophobic and violent parents, and the issues of maintaining one’s image. Speaking of images, Monica was perhaps the character I hated the most. When her true personality and character is revealed, I despised her even more. Autheras did manage to impress and surprise me with Monica, and the mysterious thing that happened to her.
William was a surprising character in that I did not automatically predict the effect he would have on Chloe. Like all of the popular characters, you think you know exactly who they are at the beginning of the novel. I expected a stereotypical American popular prep kid, but what I received was a sweet and empathetic boy. That is not to say I did not have my issues with him; there were several scenes in which I wanted to smack him over the head, but, like the others, I came to comprehend him and his decision-making process.
I was a little surprised by how much I connected with Chloe, while simultaneously becoming annoyed with her. Her desire for revenge was the driving force of the novel, and the central reason as to why I decided to read the Wattpad book in the first place. However, I was disappointed by her and the negative features far outweighed the good, in my opinion. The entire premise of the novel is Chloe infiltrating the popular group to take them down for the unknown thing they did to her best friend Monica. But she doesn’t actually do anything. Chloe was given plenty of blackmail and life-ruining material against certain members of the group, but she did not use it. Max and Zach were secretly dating, but she kept their secret because it involved their sexuality. Maddy was sleeping with Francis, but she kept their secret because she came to care for Maddy. I’m sorry, but I was promised a revenge-fuelled take down story, but I do not see any revenge taking place.
The further the story developed, the more disappointed I became. Autheras is a fantastic storyteller, and her writing was superb, but nothing actually happens within the plot. It was almost repressive, in a sense. Revenge novels are supposed to be somewhat cathartic, in that the bad guys get their comeuppance, their just deserts. But that doesn’t happen here. I finished this novel feeling exasperated and confused. What was the point of the story? What did Chloe actually achieve?
While the mystery surrounding Monica was eventually revealed and even quite heartbreaking, I could not see a point to this story. I don’t regret reading the book, as I did enjoy quite a few parts of the novel and I certainly fell in love with a few characters, but it was not as amazing as I thought it would be, as many readers on Goodreads made it out to be. In the end, the novel was simply average.
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