I recently had the pleasure of reviewing this debut novel by 17 year-old, Toronto-area author, Alexandra Egi. In The Lives We Lead, this young writer addresses issues common to teens and pre-teens, and gives great insight into the struggles and fears of girls during these difficult, formative years. Bullying, fear of failure, feelings of being not good enough, body image, "boy troubles," and so many more worries have been common to the teen years for as long as any of us can remember, and Alexandra brings these to light with the insights only someone in the midst of the struggle can.
King’s Stand is one of the most exclusive prep schools in the country, but the lives behind these ivy-covered walls are far from perfect. Led by Ms. Hillcrest, a headmistress with a dark secret, the privileged students face difficult families, fear, heartbreak, abandonment, and uncertain futures. Eleventh graders Zoey, Madi, Jenni, and Ashley must each conquer their private troubles, tearing the group apart.
Moving past their issues will take friendship, dedication, and self-confidence. If the girls learn more about themselves, their relationships, and the importance of special bonds, they will come out of these battles stronger and ready to move into healthier adulthoods—but can they separate their egos and hurt feelings for their own good?
Alexandra tells the stories from numerous viewpoints, with each character having opportunities to present their understanding of what's going on. For instance, one girl may be thinking how beautiful and confident that other girl looks, and then we switch to that other girl who is bemoaning her own shortcomings. I think this really drives home the point that behind our public facades, things aren't always as they seem. It also becomes clear that communication is key to resolving conflict and avoiding misunderstandings.
I will say that this is a difficult novel for me to review, because it is written by a teen, and for teens. The writing is appropriately targeted to this young audience, and so it might not be what we expect as older readers. Alexandra is a great writer, and I believe her prose will mature as she gains more experience and/or begins writing for an older audience. For the present, this is a well-written novel that will appeal to pre-teen and teen readers, as intended. And I think it is an important read for any girls in your life at these ages. This is a peer-to-peer telling of a story many are living, and that peer voice can be powerful.
In her own words, “I hope to give voiceless teens a voice. There is a lot of stigma and exclusion in the teen community, and I think it needs to be addressed. It’s time to dive into the issues that others ignore – I hope I can offer a different, and helpful, view.”
To learn more about Alexandra, and to watch for her future work, please visit her at www.alexandraegi.com.
Disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book for review purposes. This post includes an affiliate link.