Title: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth
Author: Lindsey Lee Johnson
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
A captivating debut novel for readers of Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You and Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth unleashes an unforgettable cast of characters into a realm known for its cruelty and peril: the American high school.
In an idyllic community of wealthy California families, new teacher Molly Nicoll becomes intrigued by the hidden lives of her privileged students. Unknown to Molly, a middle school tragedy in which they were all complicit continues to reverberate for her kids: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own. Theirs is a world in which every action may become public postable, shareable, indelible. With the rare talent that transforms teenage dramas into compelling and urgent fiction, Lindsey Lee Johnson makes vivid a modern adolescence lived in the gleam of the virtual, but rich with the sorrow, passion, and beauty of life in any time, and at any age.
As you can see from my rating I really did not like this book. Fun fact: I have never in my 32 years DNF a book. I have nothing against other people doing it but I always want to know how a book finishes. Until this book. I didn’t DNF it but I really should have. But I told myself to hold out and finish it because then I will probably understand the point of the book. No. It didn’t work. There is no actual point to this book.
I did like the idea behind the formatting of the book and it maybe could have worked if two huge things had been different. This story is told through alternating points of view. One point of view is a teacher at the school, Ms. Nicoll and her story is told every other chapter behind a story dealing with a student. Each student story is like a short story of that specific character. All these short stories even have their own story name for the chapter which further enforced the short story vibe to me. Which is the first thing that I would have changed about this book. It would have worked better to just be a collection of short stories about the students in Mill Valley. For that to really work though you would have to do the other big change which is to take out the character of Ms. Nicoll. There was no narrative point to her being in the book. She didn’t further the plot at all. Especially since there is no plot which is why a short story collection would have worked so much better. Besides her character being pointless she aggravated me every single time it was her story. She seemed to think her goal as a teacher was for the kids to be her friend. Uh no and she crossed so many lines it was uncomfortable and cringy.
Speaking of uncomfortable and cringy so was pretty much every situation a character was in. There were so many lines crossed in this book that it became overkill and ridiculous. It was way too much for one book. (I feel like putting in trigger warnings here would be spoilers but please check the Goodreads link above to find out what they are. There are a lot of good reviews that list them all.) I’m not sure if this was why the characters were all so unlikeable but they were all either annoying or terrible. Sometimes both. The only character that I felt anything for was Emma.
However, there is some good news in this depressing review that I wrote. This book has won awards. Barnes and Noble and People Magazine have both spotlight it. HBO has bought the rights to turn it into a tv show. (All of this I got from the author’s bio page here). There are obviously a great number of people who enjoy this. Who saw and understood what the author was trying to do. Unfortunately, I am not that person.