When I first heard about We Are Not Okay, I was really curious to read it!
It was marketed as four female voices with unique stories to tell, and the short snapshots about each character sounded really intense and interesting. So when an opportunity to review an advanced reader copy came up, as well as to quiz the author, I jumped at it!
Thank you to Harper Collins Publisher HQ for the free ARC in exchange for an honest review!
If only they could have spoken out.
Lucy thinks she’s better than the other girls. Maybe if she’s pointing fingers at everyone else, no one will see the secret she’s hiding.
Ulana comes from a conservative Muslim family where reputation is everything. One rumour – true or false – can destroy futures.
Trina likes to party. She’s kissed a lot of boys. She’s even shown her red bra to one. But she didn’t consent to that night at Lucy’s party. So why doesn’t anyone believe
Sophia loved her boyfriend. She did anything for him, even send him photos of herself. So why is she the one being pointed at in the hallways, laughed at, spat at when it was him who betrayed her trust?
We Are Not Okay is one of those books that reminds me how grateful I am not to be at school anymore. Navigating the shark-infested halls, popularity contests, and bullies can be a completely overwhelming and terrifying experience, and with the aid of social media, it’s only getting more horrific. Natália Gomes captures these fears and uncertainties with painful accuracy and this novel made my heart physically hurt at points!
We Are Not Okay managed to look at a lot of different complex topics in a short space of time including bullying/cyberbullying, teen pregnancy, mental health, and sexual assault.
In this novel, we follow four different female points of views and every single one of them is struggling with the expectations that society puts on them. There’s one rule for the boys and a completely different and complicated one for girls. Each protagonist is also struggling with their own individual problems, whether it be confidence, a break-up, keeping their social standing, bullying or managing two different cultures. I also loved how all their different stories overlapped, from their actual interactions to their biased thoughts about each other as they crossed in the hallways!
This book left me with the overwhelming sense that although life as a teen is tough, it becomes so much easier if you take the plunge and speak out about your problems. Even more so if we support each other rather than trying to knock each other down.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. There was one thing that happened towards the end linked to mental health that I wish could have been explored further (or built up more before it occurred) but other than that, this book was pretty solid. If you’re looking for a thought-provoking YA read, I would recommend We Are Not Okay!
Writing 3/5 | Originality 4/5 | Entertainment 3/5 | Character Development 4/5 Overall Impression: 3/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes
Q & A WITH NATÁLIA GOMES
Your novel feels very on trend with current conversations at the moment! What was the inspiration behind We Are Not Okay?
‘We Are Not Okay’ tackles issues that were occurring when I went to high school that young adults are still facing now – bullying, sexual exploitation, teen pregnancy, discrimination, and self harm. But now we live in a digital world where comments can be put online for all to see. A digital platform presents more opportunities to bully and exploit, and because of it we’re seeing a rise in cyber bullying and teen suicides. ‘We Are Not Okay’ sends the message that it’s okay to not feel okay. Accepting that we need help doesn’t make us weak, it makes us strong. As a teacher and a writer, I wanted to see more YA literature sending this message, which is why I wrote the book.
Which was the first character perspective that came to you? Did you always plan to write from 4 different POVs?
I did always plan to write 4 different narratives, however, it was Sophia’s story that I developed first and then from that the remaining 3. My previous novels have only ever featured 1 POV so this was a new challenge for me in my writing.
We Are Not Okay does an amazing job of showing the differences between the male/female experience at school. When do you think you became aware of the double standards that exist? Did you realise during your school experience, or did this come later?
I was aware from an early age in high school that females experience different standards to their male peers with regards to social behaviour and expectations, and reputation. I think we’ve made some great progress with this as a whole, but as a teacher I still see double standards in schools in the social sense.
You tackled a lot of big and serious topics in your novel (which I loved)! Did you have to do much research?
Most of the characters I create in my stories come from my own experiences or those of others I know or once knew, so I didn’t have to do too much research for this book. As a teacher, I’m around students all day so I hear their conversations and their concerns, and I was surprised that they’re dealing with similar issues to when I went to high school. However, for my first book Dear Charlie, I did a lot of research into major school shootings in the UK and the US, including talking with a police officer who assisted on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting back in 2012. With my second book Blackbird, I looked into police processes to get a better understanding of how police conduct a murder investigation.
If you had a time machine and you were able to go back to school, but with all the knowledge you have now, what would you change?
I would tell myself to not worry so much about the future! Although I had a very positive experience at school overall thanks to a wonderful group of friends, many of which I’m still close with today, I felt a little lost in high school at times. I struggled with social anxiety, and fretted over the future. I would love to go back and instill some confidence and calm in my younger self. But then again, if I could go back and make changes, perhaps I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
I know it’s a difficult ask, but what do you hope readers take away from this novel when they close the last page?
I hope readers get the message that it’s ok to need and ask for help sometimes. We’re not alone, and very often what we’re experiencing is what others are too.
Thank you so much to Natalia for answering my questions and writing a thought-provoking book!