Book Review: This May End Badly

Samantha Markum’s This May End Badly is a delicious treat of a read, full of memorable characters, a hilarious plot, and just the right amount of heart-tugging realizations to give it some depth, too.

Doe waltzes in to her senior year at her beloved boarding school ready to continue the ongoing prank war with their rival school, and not at all ready to think about college, moving on, or no longer basing her identity on her school. As a Weston girl, Doe follows the example set by school founder Mallory Weston, a strong feminist setting out to make space for women’s education in a male-dominated world. As the resident pranking mastermind, Doe leads her friends through pranks and verbal sparring matches with their male counterparts at Weston’s rival school, Winfield. But when news of the two school’s merger breaks, Doe has a new objective: stop the merger. When the opportunity to fake date her enemy’s cousin arises, Doe leaps at it…but the cost may be too high this time. As Doe spins lie after lie to try and save the school that was her salvation, she’s faced with a bigger issue than the merger. Doe has to decide where, exactly, her loyalties lie.

This book is engaging and engrossing from the beginning, immersing you in Doe’s world and showing just how high the stakes are. The writing is exquisite and humorous, establishing the voice of the novel. The plot is perfectly paced, each situation providing insight into these characters and their world. Every character is well-developed, from Doe’s friends to her rivals to the staff at each school.

The dialogue throughout this book is top-tier. From witty banter to heavy conversation to tongue-tied moments, each scene is full of realistic and believable dialogue. Doe serves as the first person narrator; her sarcastic comments and biting wit really set the tone for the book’s events.

The relationships between characters are absolutely perfect. The tricky balance of friendships with a new relationship is put under a microscope, a relatable conundrum with the added weight of a lie that makes the reader empathetic and worried for the main character simultaneously. Doe’s relationships with her friends are just as deeply explored as the relationship, a beautiful and necessary component many YA romances are missing.

The plot is full of lovable tropes, from enemies to lovers to fake dating to academia. They’re all flawlessly pulled off and well-integrated into the story, making the novel feel fuller with their presence. The plot does handle some delicate subjects, such as abuse, harassment, and grooming. These topics are thoughtfully handled and do not feel exploitative.

The addition of these tougher plot topics takes this book to the next level. Without them, the book is wonderful: funny, sweet, a total rom-com that leaves you feeling great. These realistic issues add depth to the story, raising the stakes and showing the characters what’s really worth fighting for.

I loved every moment of this book. The characters were incredibly enjoyable to spend time with, and living in their world was delightful. The heavier moments are well-balanced with the lighter ones, and you finish the book feeling empowered, hopeful, and already wanting to read it again.

This book gives me Jenny Han’s To All the Boys and Cruel Intentions vibes; if you’re a fan of either of those, I highly recommend checking this one out!

This May End Badly will be available April 12, 2022 from St. Martin’s Press. Thank you to Ms. Markum, Net Galley, and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced copy such that I could write this review.

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