Review: Life By Committee by Corey Ann Haydu

Book Title: Life By Committee
Author: Corey Ann Haydu
Release Date: May 13th, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: YA/Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Purchase Links: AmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository 
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Some secrets are too good to keep. 

Tabitha might be the only girl in the history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. But her so-called friends say she’s changed, and they’ve dropped her flat. 

Now Tab has no one to tell about the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her: Joe, who spills his most intimate secrets to her in their nightly online chats. Joe, whose touch is so electric, it makes Tab wonder if she could survive an actual kiss. Joe, who has Tabitha brimming with the restless energy of falling in love. Joe, who is someone else’s boyfriend.

Just when Tab is afraid she’ll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she finds Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe. 

Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she’d ever go on her own.

But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go?
Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from Katherine Tegen Books via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

This book was addicting. It was like chocolate in the sense that I had to have it and one chapter was never enough for me. The main character, Tabitha went through a lot of crap and while she made some questionable choices, I could tell she was trying to hard to regain some part of her old life. Loneliness can be very difficult to deal with and it’s even worse when all of your friends turn against you, even going as far as to call you a slut and other such awful names.

When loneliness really sets in, people often find themselves turning to an online community. These can give you a sense of belonging and I think it definitely did that for Tabitha. She felt welcomed in that community. Life By Committee allowed her to share her secrets, but she always had an assignment attached to it. It was usually something designed to face the secret head on.

Tabitha’s family was pretty interesting. They had been teen parents when she was born so they had sort of all grown up together and her parents were more like her older siblings than her parents. Her mom tried to instill some sort of parenting thing, but that may have been due to the fact that she was expecting again and she wanted to do it “right” this time around. Her dad seemed more relaxed, and that had more to do with his increasing levels of pot use.

My favorite bits involved Tabitha with her copies of old books that had writing in it. I really don’t like to write in my books, but I have done it and I loved that she had a well worn copy of The Secret Garden. Really made me want to read the book again.

The love interest was a creep and I really didn’t understand why Tabitha was so obsessed with him. My feelings about him definitely did not change throughout the entire book. However, there was another boy who made me excited and I hoped Tabitha would notice him.

I enjoyed this book more than I initially thought I would. However, I really was hoping for more character development, especially for the secondary characters. I don’t feel like I knew all of the characters as well as I wanted to. So that really disappointed me. I will be giving this book 4 stars, and I will continue to read anything Corey writes because I freaking LOVE her. I would still recommend this book to people because I think so many teenagers feel that loneliness and they need to know they aren’t alone. 

Guest Post from Corey Ann Haydu

Corey Ann Haydu is the author of two YA Contemporaries.

OCD Love Story- July 2013
Life By Committee- May 2014
Several weeks ago, Corey put the word out that she was willing to do a guest post on book blogs and I pounced on the opportunity for her to write one for this blog. Since I am working on 3 writing projects, I really wanted to hear about her writing process.

On Process and Doing What Works

The really wonderful thing about being a writer is the same as the really wonderful thing about being a person—you get to figure out who you are and what makes sense for you in your work and your writing and your life.

Here’s how a book happens for me:
I come up with an idea. It is vague. It is inspired by something else—a bit of my life or a documentary or a play or a podcast or another book. In the case of LIFE BY COMMITTEE I started with this French film I loved—Love Me If You Dare. I liked the structure, danger, and chaos of the film and I wanted to attempt that kind of arc in a book. 

That’s all I knew, when I started.

I write in cafes. I need a mocha or a chai. I have to have internet. I like to be chatting online with friends and looking at interesting articles and generally doing a sort of manic multitasking. I work best with a lot of chaos around me.

I write random scenes, out of order. I have only that one seed of an idea (“a YA novel sort of like that French film”) and nothing else. I play a lot. Slowly, I layer on ideas. At one point in writing LBC I realized the arc I wanted would intersect in an interesting way with bits of my own high school experience.

The first draft took me about a year. First drafts in general tend to take me about a year. It is a messy, messy process. I don’t have any chronology until very late in the game. Plot points occur to me sort of willy-nilly, and I’ll write a scene that seems like it could be interesting (Sasha Cotton on her porch at night, in LBC) and not have any idea why I’m writing it or where it will fit in. It’s a lot like leaving breadcrumbs for myself, Hansel and Gretl style, without actually knowing where I’m walking as I drop those breadcrumbs.

But miraculously a lot of things come together.

And unsurprisingly, a lot of other things fall apart.

I do not have strong first drafts. My revisions are complicated, structural, character and plot overhauls. They are not far from page one rewrites. I need readers (betas and above all else my agent and editor) to ask the right questions so that I can find the right answers.

When I’m revising I make insane, impossible choices. That’s when the book starts to work. I don’t solve a problem of not enough tension or a character’s journey being off by simply tweaking. I completely rethink the way I’m telling the story. I changed the entire way LBC– the online group in the book– functioned in between the second and third drafts. I cut a major character entirely after the first draft. I started the book in a whole new place. I added probably ten chapters in my last revision.

I stayed open to new and large and surprising changes. That’s the important part of the writing process for me—openness. Being open to ideas that seem impossible or exhausting. Taking risks. Writing scenes you may never use. Going in a direction that’s going to be hard to turn yourself around from. Making big and scary decisions, sticking with them, and then having the courage to give them up and undo them again if they’re not working.

And then the scariest—trusting your own instinct and following through even when it’s terrifying and hard.

And knowing how YOU write best, how a novel comes to be for YOU, and not judging that the process doesn’t look the way it’s supposed to. My process isn’t efficient. It requires me knowing when I have done as much as I can do on my own. It is filled with self-doubt and small moments of epiphanies. I am often shocked and appalled and dismayed and lost. My process involves post-it notes and scattered ideas and no outlines or calendars or spreadsheets. It doesn’t involve story arc, even though I know eventually I’ll need that. It doesn’t involve consistency or thinking through motivations, even though I know eventually I’ll need that. It means sometimes I give up halfway through or start over for the fiftieth time. It means for every 80,000 word book, there are 300,000 written words, beautiful scenes that will never be seen, characters I loved that no one else will meet. It means my phone is filled with one sentence idea descriptions that offer me little more than a feeling on which to build a whole novel.

And those little feelings sometimes turn into books.

And that’s mine. I can own that. Even though it’s messy.

Thank you so much Corey for volunteering to write a post for the blog. I loved reading all about your writing process. Keep writing those amazing books for us!