A Review of 99 Days, by Katie Cotugno

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Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

– – – – –

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: realistic, horrifying expose on “slut-shaming”; endearing, personable characters that reach through the pages and shatter your heart over and over again; a moral the whole world—ESPECIALLY young women–needs to hear

I have to start with something easy here; I hope you’ll all forgive me for that, I just feel this needs to be said first thing. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that these chapters read more like diary entries. I mean honestly—I can imagine Molly sitting in her room after each of these days, recounting and penning them down, trying to find the ever-ellusive answers in the words spilling from her fingers. It’s what I did, in high school. It’s just such a realistic and endearing thing, thinking of the chapters in this way—it really helped to bring Molly to life for me, seeing the world through her eyes, hearing this story through her voice.

That being said, I’ll move along to the next thing—and possibly the hardest of all. The moral of this book? Heart-shattering. I am honestly sorry for all young women who have, who are, or who will at some point go through a situation similar to this. Slut-shaming is a terrible, hurtful thing; I appreciate the sensitivity and strength it took Katie Cotugno to write about this topic, as I’m sure it wasn’t an easy thing.

Now, on to other things. I can’t say I LOVED this book—I enjoyed it, and while I love the moral that we leave off with at the end (being true to yourself, finding strength IN yourself, learning to look beyond what the world believes of you and figure your own path out) I can’t say I necessarily LIKED the characters. I mean, I guess that’s pretty much the point—as readers, we’re not meant to like the characters, but instead to understand that everyone (read that again, EVERYONE) is human, makes mistakes, and is entirely redeemable. NOBODY deserves being treated the way Molly is in this book; NOBODY should ever, ever go through what she did. So I get it: the characters aren’t really meant to be liked, they have a job to do and Katie Cotugno wrote them to do that job. But…I wish I could have liked them, at least a little more. In the beginning, I was SO in love with Gabe. I didn’t understand why it was even a choice for Molly—Patrick was being a huge jerk, and Gabe was just so…Gabe.

But again, there’s the point, isn’t it? Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone acts stupidly, selfishly. So while I loved Gabe in the beginning, while I was DESPERATE for this not to turn into the drama-fest it did…I understand why it HAD to. I understand what Katie Cotugno was striving for, and I forgive her for hurting my heart.

The writing is good; the dialogue and character motivations are believable and realistic, and while I didn’t like what happened between the three main characters, again, I wasn’t meant to. The point was the moral; the whole book leads up to this strong, heart-wrenching end scene where Molly—and readers, right along with her—learn what life’s been trying so hard to tell her for so long. The rest of the world doesn’t matter. The rest of the world has no right to say or do anything about our lives. Our lives are OURS, not theirs. This was a really profound, hard-hitting conclusion, and while this book doesn’t have a happy ending—all the broken pieces are not, as so often found at the end of books/movies, tied neatly together and mended with a bow—it DID leave me thinking.

If you’re into books with a lot of action, this is probably NOT the read for you, as it focuses more on the characters and their relationships—or, in some instances, lack thereof. This is all about the emotions, the impact that harsh rumors and acidic words have on vulnerable hearts, the ways we all react to and handle the consequences of our actions. So no, there’s not a lot of action. But if you’re looking for a gut-churning, leave you burning with anger and outrage, make you want to hit somebody sort of read, you might consider picking this one up.

Overall, a good story with a hard-hitting and IMPORTANT moral lesson. Be true to yourself. Be strong in your heart. Find the people who care about you and don’t let anyone or anything tell you how to live YOUR life. You are beautiful, you are important, you are you and that’s all that matters. Highly recommended to lovers of contemporary, YA, and nitty-gritty drama fests.

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