A fiercely funny, queer romantic comedy about two girls who can’t stand each other, but join forces in a grand feminist plan to expose harassment and inequality at their elite private school.
Harriet Price is the perfect student: smart, dutiful, over-achieving. Will Everhart is a troublemaker who’s never met an injustice she didn’t fight. When their swim coach’s inappropriate behavior is swept under the rug, the unlikely duo reluctantly team up to expose his misdeeds, pulling provocative pranks and creating the instantly legendary Amelia Westlake–an imaginary student who helps right the many wrongs of their privileged institution. But as tensions burn throughout their school–who is Amelia Westlake?–and between Harriet and Will, how long can they keep their secret? How far will they go to make a difference? And when will they realize they’re falling for each other?
Award-winning author Erin Gough’s Amelia Westlake Was Never Here is a funny, smart, and all-too-timely story of girls fighting back against power and privilege–and finding love while they’re at it.
Originally published in Australia (with the title Amelia Westlake), Amelia Westlake Was Never Here is a fun, subversive story about fighting injustice and falling in love. Here are some of my thoughts:
Over the course of the book, main characters Will and Harriet perform a series of pranks (using the pseudonym Amelia Westlake) to bring attention to the injustices at their school. For me, these pranks were the best part of the book—they’re all so clever and fun to read about, and I loved how the Amelia Westlake hoax unites girls at a high school who are in completely different social circles.
I also read that this part of the book is partially based on something the author actually did when she was at high school, which I found interesting!
👔 Important issues
The book brings up a bunch of important issues, like sexual harassment, classism, etc. Like I said in the above section, I really liked the pranks that the characters used to protest these problems.
One issue I had was not with the book itself, but more how it was marketed—I was expecting a lot of feminism from reading the synopsis, and there’s some, but it isn’t a major focus of the story.
👔 Distinct voices
From reading some reviews on Goodreads, I can tell that opinions on the two narrators (cynical outcast Will and popular girl Harriet) are mixed, especially because the narration in Harriet’s chapters (it’s dual POV) is unusually formal for a teenager.
However, I personally enjoyed the characters and how they developed throughout the novel, and I liked that each narrator had her own distinct voice.
👔 Family relationships
This isn’t an enormous part of the book, but I felt that both Harriet’s strained relationship with her mom (and the exploration of her mom’s subtle homophobia) and her nice relationship with her punk rocker brother, Arthur, were well-done. Nice sibling relationships are my favorite to read about, and Arthur is so sweet and supportive.
👔 Opposites attract & enemies-to-lovers tropes
Will and Harriet are so different from each other, and I loved how they slowly become friends (and then something more…not really a spoiler, as I think it’s pretty clear from the synopsis).
Anyway, I think if you’re a fan of either of these two tropes, you’ll probably enjoy the dynamic between Will and Harriet.
👔 School setting
I found the school setting to be enjoyable, and it was interesting for me to see what an all-girls school in Australia might be like. (I have no idea if this is actually a realistic depiction of what these schools are like? But it was interesting for me to read about as an American who’s only ever gone to co-ed schools.)
I don’t think Amelia Westlake Was Never Here is for everyone, but I personally really enjoyed reading it! Pick it up it you’d be interested in fun pranks and a slow-burn f/f romance.
Diversity Rep: two sapphic main characters, one of whom has an anxiety disorder; Vietnamese and bisexual major character; other non-straight minor characters
Warnings: flying phobia/anxiety; teen drinking (though I believe the characters are 18, which is the legal drinking age in Australia, where this book is set); initially unchallenged racism; non-consensual kiss; romantic cheating; sexual harassment from a coach directed at teenagers, and a character pressures another character to come forward about her experiences with this; homophobia (challenged); absent parents; reference to pet death; classism (challenged)
Have you read Amelia Westlake Was Never Here? What did you think of it? Chat with me in the comments!
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!