Book Review: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say by Leila Sales

Posted April 18, 2018 by Rowena in Reviews | 4 Comments

Book Review: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say by Leila SalesIf You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say
by Leila Sales
Published by Macmillan, Farrar Straus and Giroux on May 1, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Point of View:First Person
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Add It: Goodreads

Before we go any further, I want you to understand this: I am not a good person.

We all want to be seen. We all want to be heard. But what happens when we’re seen and heard saying or doing the wrong things? What then?

When Winter Halperin—former spelling bee champion, aspiring writer, and daughter of a parenting expert—gets caught saying the wrong thing online, her life explodes. All across the world, people knows what she’s done, and none of them will forgive her.

With her friends gone, her future plans cut short, and her identity in shambles, Winter is just trying to pick up the pieces without hurting anyone else. She knows she messed up, but does that mean it’s okay for people to send her hate mail and death threats? Does she deserve to lose all that she’s lost? And is “I’m sorry” ever good enough?

First and foremost a novel about public shaming in the internet age, If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say is also an exploration of the power of words, the cumulative destructiveness of microaggressions, and the pressing need for empathy.

I’ve been reading Leila Sales for a few years now and I’ve really enjoyed some of her books and didn’t enjoy one of the books that I’ve read by her. After reading this one, I have not enjoyed another one of her books. This was almost a DNF but I needed to know that things turned around for the main character, needed to know that she learned her lesson and I was really interested in seeing how it all ended. I feel I should warn you guys that there will be hella spoilers in this review because I’ve got shit to say and I’m going to say it all here…so this is your warning.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * So this book follows Winter Halperin, a former spelling bee champion who made a racist remark online and pays the price for that remark. Her past is blasted and made fun of online and needless to say, she’s devastated. She didn’t mean the remark the way that everyone took it but it was still a shitty thing to say and she is remorseful but in my opinion, she wasn’t remorseful for the right reasons. As I was explaining to my daughter while talking about this book with her, Winter didn’t deserve a lot of the shitty comments that were thrown her way (you know all of the, you should go ahead and kill yourself now because you’re stupid cow and the you should be raped for what you said – those comments) but she 100% deserved to be educated on just how privileged her way of thinking was. I’m sorry but if your apology includes the word “but” in it, you ain’t sorry for shit and Jason, Winter’s black best friend wasn’t here for that kind of apology. He was hurt by her words and he had every right to be pissed at her. They were close friends and she said a shitty thing online that hurt his feelings but she didn’t get why her comment was so bad. Jason explains why he was so mad at her and she was adamant that she’s not like that. Her defense was, “I have black friends, I can’t be racist!” She really didn’t get why Jason was so mad at her. This part of the book had so much promise and it could have gone down in a way that taught Winter a really good lesson but what actually happens had me all…
Because no she didn’t make the white girl say a racist thing and then make the white girl the victim and then make her black best friend the bad guy by doing some shady shit. Jason deserved better than that and I almost stopped reading the book because I was getting mad but I needed to know that Winter turned her ass around and that she learned some important life lessons from all of this. I needed to see this happen with my own eyes and you guys…that didn’t happen. Or actually, it happens but it came with a whole lot of shit on shit on shit that kept knocking me on my ass. So Winter went to a sort of rehab clinic and it was a safe space for her to finally take a long look at her way of thinking, to learn and grow from her past mistakes. That was probably the best thing for her because by the end of the book, Winter learns her lesson. She does eventually get where Jason was coming from, she learns to be genuinely remorseful for her actions and she does learn just how different her life is from Jason’s, how different her life is from the black girl in rehab but holy cow, the delivery sucked huge donkey balls for me. Winter really comes into her own over the course of the story and when she finally gets it, I breathed a sigh of relief because, freaking finally, right? I was satisfied that the main character finally saw the light but one of the last things to happen in the book left me speechless, left a really bad taste in my mouth because I honestly didn’t think it was necessary. It took a huge shit on the message of the book. So Winter learns her lesson, she’s back at home and she’s not googling herself twenty times an hour, she’s evolved as a person and genuinely wants to be a better, more enlightened person. She’s at peace. One of the things that she hasn’t given up is googling others that are going through what she went through. The latest victim? A happily married white man in his thirties who set up a dating profile on a gay dating app for the sole purpose of outing the men he met on there who work in politics in D.C. He’s a reporter and was doing all of this for the story. Needless to say, the online social media justice department went in on this guy and our newly enlightened and evolved protagonist wrote this asshat a letter that basically said, “I feel for you man. Just know that you’ll get through this and I’ll see you on the other side.”
I can’t imagine why that needed to be included in this book. What lesson was being pushed here? It doesn’t matter what your actions are, nobody deserves death threats? People don’t deserve to lose their livelihood after doing shitty things that hurt others? That lesson could have been taught without victimizing the asshole who violated so many people, willingly. I closed this book and was so very angry that I don’t think I can ever come back from it. There aren’t too many books that have angered me as much as this book did and I honestly don’t think I’ll be reading anything by Leila Sales again. I would be too scared that I’d get another one of these and no. Just hell fucking no. Grade: 1 out of 5

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4 responses to “Book Review: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say by Leila Sales

  1. Well damn… this book sounds bad! Like real bad. The worst. Just how could this be done? I can tell how much this book annoyed you from your review so I’ll give it a miss. Leila Sales has written some books I’ve enjoyed but that doesn’t mean I’ll go out of my way to read this one.

    • Rowena

      Same here. I loved one of her books so much which is why I kept reading her stuff and even though the last few releases didn’t work for me, I wanted to give this one a go…boy was I wrong. I should have skipped this all around. You should too.

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