You see that word compelling in reviews all the time.  Its like a review word, you know.  The movie was compelling, the book, whatever.  It has stopped having meaning,  except for an excerpt stuck on the cover of a book or a movie poster.  But while I was reading Harmless, that is the word that came to mind.

Mariah, Anna, and Emma are 3 very different girls who for different reasons become friends.  As friends they make choices, embolden one another to act in ways they might not have before.  And when one of their bad choices may lead to them being in trouble they make another choice, and this one is monumentally bad.

It didn’t have to be, but inaction on their part, a small community who feels threatened, and parents unprepared for their children to be different all lead to it being monumentally bad.

You know from the beginning that they are going to tell this lie, and it is going to grow beyond what they feel they can control.  What is interesting is each girl and the reaction I had as a reader to who they were, the motives they had, the justifications they used, and the manner in which they handled the fallout.   The girls I thought I’d relate to, understand, empathize with, were not in the end the girls I did feel for.

Reinhardt does an excellent job of taking the reader inside each girl’s motivation.





I thought I’d feel for Anna.  Schlumpy, lonely, desperate Anna.  I thought I’d hate Mariah.  Bad girl, chip on her shoulder, best days of life in high school Mariah.  And that Emma, would be just glue.  Wrong.  And this is where I really decided I loved this book.  Anna’s motivations – popularity, boyfriend, and yes, being the perfect only child made her less sympathetic. I understood the only child syndrome – hell, I am an only child I know about not wanting to disappoint.  And I understand that her testy relationship with her mother after THE LIE was about the disappointment she knows her mother will inevitably feel.  But her obvious enjoyment of her new found popularity, however falsely based and untrue, was disturbing.  YOU LIED!!!!!  and now you want to write stories, and proudly march in Take Back the Night?!?!?

Mariah was quicker to catch on to that.  And her back story and motivation so much more subtle and ultimately sad.  Mariah, the girl who looks like she has it all, but has nothing.  A mother who basically has abandoned her for the “new family”, a stepfather unable to incorporate her comfortably into his life and is overly worried about appearances, a father she does not know (hell, her mother doesn’t even know), a boyfriend who is using her, and no friends.  As she says,  she is living 2 lives – the outer and the inner.  And there is no one to share that inner life with.  Even the relationship with Silas is this cry for visibility.  She just needs to be seen.  There is all kinds of pop psychology in her daddy issues, but ultimately I felt sorry for her.

Emma, the one who really starts it all.  Desperate also to be seen.  In some way other than Anna’s friend.  Silas’ sister.  Unable to cope with the first mistake and its consequences, admit to it, deal with it. I’d say tragic consequences but really, I’m having a hard time with tragic – the consequences are unfortunate, and regrettable but not tragic.   She is the hardest to know.  She spends so much time in a fog.  But I like how the subtle play of her father’s indiscretions role into her motivations in a not so obvious way.

So – the book, it was compelling.  I enjoyed it.


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