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Nice Try, Jane Sinner

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The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.
Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don't know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she'll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.
As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She'll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

420 pages, Hardcover

First published January 9, 2018

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About the author

Lianne Oelke

1 book166 followers
Lianne Oelke has a degree in philosophy and works in the film industry—which may explain a lot about her debut novel, Nice Try, Jane Sinner. Or not. She lives, camps, and thinks about cats in Vancouver.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 880 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
December 3, 2018
He wasn't even wearing sleeves. I suppose he expects the ladies at home to swoon at the sight of his well-muscled arms. Thankfully I am no lady.

This was delightful!

I've been avoiding YA Contemporary lately because everything I read seems to be cliche, or silly, or boring... but this book was so much fun. Maybe it's because I have a somewhat dark, nihilistic sense of humour that I totally fell in love with Jane, but whatever the reason, I enjoyed every minute of this book.

For one thing, I really enjoyed that it is a) Canadian, and b) set during college (community college, where Jane Sinner is working to get her high school diploma after being expelled, to be exact). Both of these things instantly set the book apart from the masses. But it also has a rather unusual and quirky plot - Jane takes part in a reality show, filmed and broadcast by college students.

It all starts because Jane does not have a clue what to do with her life after everything seems to have fallen apart. She wants to get away from home and the promise of cheap rent in House of Orange attracts her attention. The housemates are watched Big Brother-style as they bicker, manipulate and form alliances to try to win the game.

I LOVED Jane. It will be personal preference. She's definitely super moody and she will probably annoy some readers, but her cynical and sarcastic sense of humour really made me laugh. I like that the book is deeper than it first appears and, as we delve into Jane's past, I was pleasantly surprised by the complexity of the characters and themes.

Jane is just coming to terms with her own atheism, despite being from a religious family, and she's also dealing with some mental health and anxiety issues. I thought this latter was handled with sensitivity, and just the right amount of self-deprecating humour.
How to deal with talking in front of crowds:

1) Eat breakfast and throw it up noisily.
2) Overanlyze the entire situation untilit becomes so familiar it's no longer terrifying.
3) Drink three beers.

It's terrible and hilarious how much I relate to her.

The author uses an interesting technique with the dialogue-- all conversations are written movie script-style, which worked really well. I think it makes the story move much faster, or at least gives the impression that it is moving faster.

Overall, Nice Try, Jane Sinner is such an entertaining read. It's funny and silly, yet thoughtful and sweet, too. I liked it immensely.

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Profile Image for Emma Giordano.
317 reviews116k followers
July 30, 2018
Shout out to HMHTeen for letting me read this one so early!

I REEEAAAALLLLYYYY loved this book!! I feel like we don't get much YA in a college setting, so it was nice to be able to relate to a YA character with my current circumstances as opposed to referring to my past.

Trigger warning for talk of depression and suicide. These topics are not huge components of the story nor is it a main focus or what I would consider specifically a "mental health novel" but it deserves being said!

Also, I would not consider this a "content warning" but this book does contain criticism of the Christian faith and as I know some of my followers are devout Christians, these discussions may upset you. On the other hand, you may be interested to see someone else's viewpoint, so it's your call!

Firstly, THE HUMOR IN THIS BOOK IS GOLD! Dry humor is seriously lacking in YA and Jane was the breath of fresh air I needed. She has this nihilistic sense of humor you can't help but laugh at. The comedic value of this book is seriously such a strong point of this novel and I would honestly recommend it for this sole factor.

I have not read a "journal format" novel in a while, so I was a little weary at first as I did not want to miss any of the story. Ultimately, I feel Jane's diary-narrative was well-executed. Characters still felt complete, scenes felt as if they were happening in real time as opposed to being recounted, and it ended up being a fun reading experience.

As someone who spent a part of their adolescence extremely involved with Christianity and who also left the church as a personal decision, I could really relate to Jane's experience of losing her faith and wanting to distancd herself from her strictly religious family. I've read a handful of books with protagonists who identify as Christians, but I haven't read one (until now) that captures what it is like to leave your church; The constant questioning of previous vs. present values, the unfortunate distance between friends still involved in the church, feeling like "an outsider" to your loved ones, all the conflict I experienced with my faith was reflected in Jane's story and it was really comforting to know I was not alone in this time.

I think the story line of "House of Orange" was well done! The challenges were exciting, the interactions between housemates kept me enticed, and it was overall a really unique addition to the story of a freshman college student. I will say, I did wish there were more challenges/exciting moments like the challenges because I felt day to day dialogue and normal interactions took up the bulk of the story.

I also really loved that Jane is a psychology student - As a psych student myself, this is never something I get to relate to in YA books so I was IMMENSELY pleased. Jane takes up a little conditioning experiment through the novel and it was unbelievably funny to watch unfold. Like House of Orange, I do wish this was a bit expanded on. I was craving for more psych-related content and I feel it could have been implemented so well in a setting full of opposing personalities, but this aspect was also somewhat overtaken by less-interesting interactions between housemates.

Overall, I REALLY loved this book. It does not hit shelves until January of 2018, but it is absolutely worth putting on your TBRs now and building excitement for. If you're looking for a YA novel that deals with more mature topics, feels a bit more polished and structured than other contemporaries out there, I'd really really recommend Nice Try, Jane Sinner. I can't wait for you all to love it as much as I have!

This book was sent to me for free by HMHTeen. I had no obligation to review this book and all opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
May 9, 2019
There is no divine plan, no destiny, no life after death, and no compensation for what you lose. There is only here and now. There is only what you’ve done and what you are going to do. And if you can own up to every moment and take responsibility for your life and shape it into something beautiful and kind and generous - if you can do that, you’ve discovered what it means to be strong.

This is the funniest book about depression I have ever read. And it is also one of the most authentic.

This is a YA contemporary about Jane Sinner [obviously], a girl who drops out of high school to attend community college and gain her independence. And it is like nothing I have read before.

One thing I appreciated about Nice Try Jane Sinner is just how different it was. This book is like a blend of a heartwrenchingly relatable character study and a hilarious reality show comedy. And both succeed, so well.

I knew I was clinically depressed, but I never thought I was actually suicidal. I didn't look forward to death, and I didn't hate life either, though I wanted to. Hatred or love - either would have been enough to keep me going. But the slushy indifference I felt for everything and everyone wasn't on the hate-love spectrum. The indifference is what I couldn't stand. And buried somewhere in all that indifference was a tiny black crevice I could never bring myself to look at, because I knew if I did, I'd get sucked down into an infinite void and never find my way out. I told myself life was all or nothing. At the time it made sense.

Books about characters with mental illnesses always seem to be About Curing The Thing, and it frankly sort of bothers me. I think, frankly, I really needed a funny book about a character with depression, a character I could relate to. And beyond that, Jane’s character is so well-developed and I ended up empathizing with her so much. She isn’t feeling sad sad, she’s feeling nothing, something I hardly see in YA.

Are you in a relationship? How long? no
Describe your current relationship: no
Describe your relationship with your family: no
Do you have any singing, acting, or performing aspirations? god no
What is your greatest strength? brevity
What is your greatest weakness? no

This book is also just freaking hilarious . Jane’s casual sarcasm and hilarious takes on the world are exactly my niche of humor, and the shenanigans of a reality show are fun to see as well.

Listen, I don’t really have a good explanation for how hard I related to this book. All you need to know is I loved this and will definitely be looking for more by this author.

TW: suicide.
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Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,655 reviews5,129 followers
January 25, 2019
It’s too bad that one Event is enough to wipe out years of accumulated Good Kid credit.

I went into this book expecting a story about a Survivor/Big Brother-style game show, but what I got was a story about growing up, mental health, healing, forgiving yourself, and learning to live with the consequences of your actions.

Perhaps if I spent more time in my childhood socializing with secular children instead of praying when I felt uncomfortable, I’d be better equipped to handle this situation.

Jane Sinner
Despite being tremendously flawed – or, perhaps, because of her flaws – Jane Sinner is one of the most unique narrators I’ve seen in the YA contemporary genre in a really long time. Let me say, despite the topics of much of this book being incredibly heavy, Jane’s sense of self-deprecating, nihilistic humor makes it hilarious. I mean, between how much it made me laugh, and how much I related to, well… Jane’s entire outlook on life, basically – I would be friends with Jane Sinner in a heartbeat, if she were a real person and in my own life. (Plus, honestly, I would never get tired of her ridiculously misused idioms.)

One of my favorite things about her sense of humor was actually something I usually don’t like in books: her pop culture references. While a lot of books overuse and over-explain references, or use references that don’t even fit the character’s lifespan’s time frame, Oelke peppers them in seldom enough to keep them fresh, and each one actually seemed like a reference that an older teen today could use (like The Hunger Games, or The Big Lebowski).

It took me a few days to realize what that meant. I didn’t believe in God. Everything I knew about who I was and what was true became irrelevant. It felt like I was on a roller coaster, sitting at the peak and waiting to drop.

We get to see a lot of Jane’s frustrations and confusion that came along with the realization that, despite being raised in church by a religious family, she no longer believed in God. I am fully supportive of anyone’s views and lifestyles, so long as they aren’t harming another individual, but I was raised in church, too, and just like Jane, I woke up one day as a teen and realized that church wasn’t the place for me anymore – and I couldn’t keep serving a deity I didn’t believe in.

I went through the same anxiety-inducing struggles of coming to terms with my new lack of a belief system. When you’re raised in an incredibly religious home, it becomes part of your identity – and leaving it behind can feel like losing a big piece of yourself, for better or for worse. I was stunned by how well Jane explained it, without ever insulting religion or faith itself. Instead, we see that Jane regrets her own religion-inspired decisions of her past, such as a delayed acceptance of her best friend’s bisexuality because of a belief that it’s immoral. I can relate to that, too, and I loved seeing this side of the debate presented in a story.

There is no divine plan, no destiny, no life after death, and no compensation for what you lose. There is only here and now. There is only what you’ve done and what you are going to do.

Continuing on with the theme of how downright relatable Jane is, she suffers from depression, and is still mentally healing from attempting suicide several months prior. If discussions of suicidal ideation trigger you, please proceed with caution while reading both this review and the book, because Jane’s take on it feels so authentic and real. There is even a moment taken to discuss how, sometimes, suicidal ideation isn’t wanting to die, it’s just wanting to cease existing – to rest, for a while. There’s also a little bit of discussion on mental health medications, as well as the ever common self-analyzation habit that so many individuals suffering from mental illness have. Jane’s introspection is a reminder that it’s easy to know what we need to do for self-care, while still not having the energy or willpower to do it.

I don’t need to know God loves me. I just need to know that she does.

friends & family; rep
This aspect of the book was a mixed bag for me: mostly positive, but a little negative in some aspects, too. My favorite aspect of Jane���s friends and family was her little sister, Carol, who is so sweet and genuine. I loved their interactions, and how much she meant to Jane. While Jane’s parents were distant and a bit callous, her sister was fully supportive of her, and my only frustrations with Jane’s character came from how she held Carol so distant at times (though, we do see major character development in this space!).

We also had a bit of diverse representation in two of Jane’s friends: Bonnie, her best friend, is bisexual and proud, but sadly a little stunted in development. She never felt like a particularly complex character to me, and I would have liked to have spent a little more time with her, as well as seeing more consistent behavior from her. The other major diversity represented came in the form of Robbie, Jane’s housemate, friend, and minor love interest: he’s Indian, and while we don’t get to see much of that explored, we do learn quite a bit about the fact that he is terrified of germs and dirt, and is trying desperately to overcome it. His character felt a little bit questionable to me at times, but I appreciated a lot of what he brought to the story, as well as the fact that the romantic aspect was very under-played and almost nonexistent.

Her faith was a conscious decision, a hard-earned achievement … I wore my own faith like the shirt I fell asleep in because I was too lazy to change.

final thoughts
All in all, I thought Nice Try, Jane Sinner was a really fun, quick read. I loved the journal entry formatting of the story, and I enjoyed Jane’s narrative tremendously. I thought it shined a light on a lot of things that people don’t like to talk about in YA, like suicide and attempts, depression, and the effects (negative or positive) that Christianity can have on a child or teen. All in all, I would highly recommend this book, and will definitely be picking up Lianne’s next release!

Content warnings: suicide, suicidal thoughts, depression

Thank you to HMH Teen for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review! All quotes are taken from an unfinished ARC and may not match the final publication.
Profile Image for may ➹.
480 reviews1,940 followers
May 13, 2018
after a week of trying and failing to read this, I’VE FINALLY FINISHED

this book has a lot of personal meaning to me, pertaining specifically to the depression rep, and it was so so good and relatable and extremely well-written. also, Jane has a specific dry, snarky, ironic sense of humor and I LOVE IT

4.5 stars

// buddy read with farim
Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
660 reviews3,882 followers
March 10, 2019
mum: what are you reading

me: nice try, jane sinner. its about a girl who wants to move out of home so she joins a college version of big brother

my mum: ........ well thats not a plot I would have got in my books fifty years ago

“Wouldn’t it be nice, don’t you think, to not constantly compare everything you say and do to everything you’ve ever said and done and hope one day the good will outweigh the cringeworthy?”

I've been reading so many heavy and serious books lately I really just needed and wanted something light and fun and easy to cleanse my palette and this was literally the perfect book for that. Nice Try, Jane Sinner is a quick paced contemporary following a seventeen year old girl called Jane Sinner who is expelled from her high school and thus has to attend Elbow Creek College to get the last few credits to graduate. Jane is also desperate to move out of her home and away from her strict christian parents - so she applies for and gets into a Big Brother meets Survivor style reality show being held on campus called House of Orange. The book follows Jane as she navigates college, and tries (really hard) to win House of Orange, gunning for grand prize of a second hand car and a college scholarship.

“Some girls just want to watch the world burn, you know?”

My favourite thing about this book was how fun it was. I don't watch a lot of reality TV BUT the two I do enjoy are Big Brother and Survivor and I loved how this book translated those shows into a book. It managed to capture all the extreme drama and that "so bad its good" feel reality TV has. This is told in journal format as Jane recounts her thoughts and I really liked that too. This book flew because of the easy reading format and we get fun extras like emails, Jane writing imaginary interviews out, and more. This book was just so easy and enjoyable and if you're just looking for something that is going to be fun and easy and quick like I was this is PERFECT.

I also LOVED Jane as a narrator. She's extremely sarcastic, blending deadpan humour with existential dread, nihilism and just a a bit of pettiness. I genuinely can't think of many (any?) protagonists like her in YA contemporary. Maybe a little like Leah from Lean On the Offbeat but .. better. Jane Sinner was hilarious, and I really loved how clever and ruthless she was. Even though she is prickly at times, I literally love her so much.

The side characters were also enjoyable. Robbie Patel - a fellow contestant who was Indian and had a cleaning disorder (never mentioned, but I assume its OCD). He was so much fun, both an angel and also extremely ruthless? I love that. Alexander Park, the producer of House of Orange who is Korean and has a mysterious past of his own. I enjoyed his character so much, and enjoyed how Oelke played with the 'nefarious producer who will do anything for content' concept with him. Jenna Park, Alexanders sister and Jane's new friend. She could of had more development but I enjoyed her relationship with Jane.

The romance in this was also surprisingly sweet. It was kinda lowly throughout the story and really slow burn with a bit of drama and angst but I was rooting for it. So I really enjoyed that subplot.

“Forgive me Father, for I am a Sinner”

My one issue with this comes with some of the rep. This is about a reality show but its also a depression book focussing on Jane's depression. I thought the depression rep was overall pretty good - I liked that it talked about Jane being on meds and how it was affecting her life on and off the show, and how it was being exacerbated by certain events at times.

However, I think Oelke kind of made a cheap plot twist in revealing quarter way through the book Jane had attempted to commit suicide on the New Year. It is referred to as "The Event" before it is revealed, and I think the way it was kind of dealt with as a plot twist for drama was a bit cheap and kind of insensitive. I've seen other reviewers feel the same way, which is comforting, because when I read it it didn't sit great with me even though overall I still liked the MI rep.

“Jane Sinner: I think I can save us some time here. I’ll tell you my only motivation in life.
The Doctor: And what motivation is that?
Jane Sinner: The lols. It’s the only reason I ever do anything.”

Overall, Jane Sinner was an immensely fun read for me, and I read pretty much all of it is one day despite it being a 400 page book. It really flew past, and I loved how Oelke brought reality show drama to the page. Jane is an absolute legend, and there was so many fun twists and unexpected moments in this it was just so fun to read. Although that one reveal didn't set well for me, the rest of this book was so good and I'll definitely look out for this authors next book!

tw: suicide ideation, mental illness / depression, getting drunk, representation of a cleaning disorder, mentions of drug use
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,793 followers
May 14, 2018

would it shock anyone if i said i was 9/10 gonna dnf this before 100 pages bc i totally was
thank goodness i didnt, this book actually surprised me with how great it was

- THE MENTAL HEALTH REP WAS SO GOOD (i might have actually cried at some points - especially towards the end)
- jane sinner is so sarcastically snarky, she is my spirit animal
- so much drama, but the funny, entertaining kind, not the cliche, boring, eye rolling kind
- i loved the reality show concept and im surprised it isn't used more in ya, its hilarious
- THE SISTERSHIP OH MY HEART, it was so sweet :')
- i love how its written as jane's journal, so it feels really //real// and genuine
- the dialogue was pretty hilarious
- i just want to grow up to be as perfectly impassive to everything like jane
- 10/10 ship the ship
- Canadian rep, my people are getting the recognition they deserve
- the ending was also a perfect way to end it

- the only thing i can really complain about is that the initial 100 pages were HARD to get through and i needed some time to adjust to the journal's format
- that's literally it

i really liked this book

4.5 stars!!


i hear this is funny and has mental health rep which like??? why havent i read it before then??? where did my priorities die???

anywho, buddy read with the rat
Profile Image for Christian.
289 reviews326 followers
May 13, 2018
CW: depression, (not really, but kind of, so tagging it for now)

"I wanted a clean break, a runaway lane, a tits-to-toes, all-in, no-chance-of-backing-out Jane Sinner Extreme Makeover. Starring Jane Sinner out of context. Out of years of uncomfortable context."

All the stars in the world, both on- and off-camera. I already want to read it again.

Writing this review will be hard, in the way that I always find it hard to talk about the things I love maybe too much to put it into words. I expected to love Nice Try, Jane Sinner, but I didn't expect it to leave me speechless. It's the kind of book that's settled so deeply in my heart that trying to put my emotions into words will feel like cutting open my chest and taking the entire muscle out for a couple minutes, which sounds super ironic and Jane would laugh at me for that analogy, but that's the truth.

So, where do I start. There's so many words I want to write down, but be aware that even if I succeed to a certain extent, there will be so much more that won't make it out of my chest and just be stuck with me forever.

What makes this novel so unique, so "one of a kind"-fantastic and heartfelt, is the narration. It's told as if the reader is taking a look into Jane's diary, so everything feels extremely personal and close to the story. I was basically inside of Jane's head for the past three days, and while it can occasionally be a dark place, it's still one I never wanted to leave. Because, oh. My. Days. Jane Sinner is such a legend. And here it may be personal preference, but I don't think I have ever gotten to read from the perspective of a funnier character. I would need approximately three more sets of hands to be able to count how many times I full-on, explosively laughed out loud. I almost didn't even care what was gonna happen next, simply because I knew that due to Jane's voice, it would be the time of my life no matter what.

Still, the entire story unfolded so beautifully and was constructed with so much care and such a huge eye for details. There were so many iconic scenes, which will never not be iconic, because every word was placed so perfectly and lovingly that I couldn't help but fall in love with the good, the bad, and every small thing in between. It took this one book for me to say that I will read anything Leanne Oelke writes.

Jane is a difficult character, and that's precisely why she's so lovable and hilarious and "I want you to be my best friend"-able. I feel like me and her would get along splendidly. She's hardly ever serious, cares a bit too much about herself and a bit too little about everyone else, and she's stubborn as hell. But, as the book progresses, you get to see that a lot of that is her way of keeping herself going in times when she feels like she can't, and underneath the facade she deals with so much more than just college and being filmed 24/7. Making fun and, once or twice, taking a joke too far is her form of self-defense, and I guess some people would call that frustrating, but I could relate to it so much and, quite frankly, she's just very good at doing the humor-thing. Nonetheless, when her darker thoughts shone through and it became clear that she couldn't "joke her depression" away, each line felt so sensitive and real in the sense that Jane gets very frustrated with herself and can't always pinpoint where those thoughts come from, and is annoyed that they seem to cloud her mind so groundlessly, which I, again, found very comprehensible.

Aside from very much approaching more serious topics, though, the book is just plain FUN. The idea of the whole House of Orange reality show was so entertaining and addictive to read about, and Jane's way of strategizing was so smart and brilliant. All the contestants are so weird, although they might just be from Jane's perspective, and I had a great time because the concept sounded so fabulous on paper, and it was executed splendidly.

Other aspects I enjoyed a lot were how the book handled the conversation about religion and Jane's struggle to wrap her mind around it, which made up a bigger (but not too big) part than I had expected and normally, probably, would have liked, her friendship with Bonnie, who is bisexual (REPRESENTATION MATTERS), any scenes that had her sister Carol in them (the two of them are so wonderful together), Jane's existential angst regarding who she'll be when the show is over and when college is over and basically her fear of the future, because same, and the discussion on how, as soon as you're on TV, the public suddenly feels entitled to know everything about you and your personal life, and how Jane, as a simple girl, dealt with it.

Really, I could go on and on. But deep down, I only have one thing to say. Well, two things. 1. I love this book with all my heart, and while I love it for being a stand-alone, I also hate it for being one because I am no good at goodbyes and don't want to let everyone go already. My entire copy is full of post-its. I'm tempted to start it again right away. And 2. please, please read this book. It deserves so much more love than I can give. Which is a lot, but still - give it some more.

* * *

I don't understand how there aren't more people talking about this?? It sounds like the perfect combination of serious (depression rep says Hi) and hilarious (reality tv shows in college = yes), but maybe that's just me.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,400 reviews11.7k followers
January 18, 2018
Super fun!

I am not sure that a reality tv show made by and with college students (and one underage high school dropout) and streamed on local tv is entirely believable, but this is a YA import from Canada, so maybe anything goes there? The impression I’ve got so far from Canadian YA (mainly Susan Juby’s work) is that people there are much more laid back about teen drinking and dating grown men. Correct me if I am wrong.

Either way, fresh plot and characters. Fun!
Profile Image for alice.
269 reviews333 followers
January 11, 2018
You can find this review and others at arctic books

3.5 stars. Trigger warnings for mentions of suicide (attempt)

NICE TRY, JANE SINNER is not a book I’ve heard much about, but I was nonetheless very intrigued by the synopsis as it covered some topics that I rarely, if ever, see in young adult literature. This novel follows Jane Sinner as she starts community college and decides to be a contestant on House of Orange, a reality television show to compete with other teenagers.

My absolute favorite aspect of this novel was the writing – it reads like The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot, which was undoubtedly one of my favorite series when I first delved into YA. If you like sarcastic and humorous (think April Ludgate funny) main characters, I think you’ll definitely connect with Jane Sinner. I found that Jane’s character definitely grew a lot from the beginning of the novel, and she has a personality that really makes you root for her.

I found this novel to reflect such a supportive and caring family that Jane had – Jane recently was expelled out of college, but she still has a relatively good relationship with her family. Jane’s experiences are something that we don’t really see much of in YA, but I like this fresh, new perspective on aspects that can be very life-changing for people. It was funny and original, yet also dealt with topics like suicide and therapy. My only reservation is that I felt like the middle of the novel dragged a bit, but the beginning and the ending wraps up the novel quite nicely.

Overall, NICE TRY, JANE SINNER is a wonderful debut by Lianne Oelke, and I’m very excited to continue looking into her future works. If you like reality television, relatable characters, and a funny, unforgettable read, be sure to check this one out!

Thank you to HMH for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Romie.
1,074 reviews1,272 followers
April 8, 2018
If you don't like what you've written, write something else.

Look at me, reading the books I buy just a few weeks after I bought them! I deserve a pat on the shoulder. Someone wants to give me a high five?

Okay, let's be serious for one second. I think I really have to start reading reviews of the books I buy just so I can be mentally prepared, because, honestly? I wasn't prepared for half the things that happened in this book.
Jane is a 17-year-old high school student who tried to commit suicide at the beginning of the year, and because she skipped a few classes and refused to keep on seeing a therapist, was kicked out of school. Her only way to graduate is to go to community college and earn some credits. Because she doesn't want to live with her very religious parents anymore, she decides to be part of House of Orange, a reality tv show created by one of the students. The price? A car and a 5 thousand dollars scholarship. The downsides? Well, living with 5 strangers and being filmed 24/7.

I didn't know this book was about depression when I started it, I also didn't know Jane had tried to commit suicide because — and this is where I'm not happy with the book — Jane's failed attempt at killing herself is used as a plot device. That didn't sit well with me. Sure, it's sad when halfway through the book you learn about this, but the thing is, we shouldn't have to learn about this in the middle of the book when so much of Jane's story revolves around this. For the first half it's referred to as ‘the Event’ and I think we could have learnt right away about her attempt at committing suicide, I even think it should have been in the synopsis because this isn't something everybody would be comfortable reading about. It's a very important subject, and I wish it would have been handled better. I just felt like people were shaming Jane for this, they said she was only seeking attention, that she ruined their senior year and I wish someone would have called them out.

But let's move on! Jane is a VERY funny character. She uses her humour and sarcasm as an armour. She's clinically depressed and her depression was extremely relatable! At times it was hard for me to read because it hit so close to home, but gosh was it written so well! Jane is trying to move on, trying to leave her past behind because a lot of people are shaming her for this, even people she considered as her friends. She's this character you both want to roll your eyes at and laugh with. By trying to protect herself with her sarcasm and humour, she pushes people away from her, she creates this cold hearted persona and instead of helping her, it keeps her down. Her main struggle throughout this book was how to please both the people she loves and herself, how to live her life without forgetting the people who always supported her.

I liked the way this book was written as diary entries, I really felt like I was seeing the world through Jane's eyes and it made it so much easier to identify with her! I think what I loved the most about reading her diary was reading her made-up therapy sessions. They were simply hilarious!

This book is about someone trying to reinvent herself after something terrible happened to her, after people turned their back on her, after she decided she couldn't live to please people anymore. It's a beautiful book, it made me cry, it made me laugh, it made me want to hug Jane but also to kick her ass. Also did I mention that this book takes place in Canada? I was so please for some reasons that it wasn't taking place in the US. It was a good change! Oh and Jane's best friend is bisexual + has a girlfriend, Jane's closest friend in the House was born of two Indian immigrants, and one of Jane's friend and her brother — whom created the show — are Korean-Canadian. These are just mentioned throughout the book, but it was still nice to get this casual diversity.

Overall I really enjoyed Nice Try, Jane Sinner. It's a funny book about depression which trust me is hard to get. It's a book you can hardly put down because of easily you get invested in the story.

Trigger warnings: suicide attempt — suicidal thoughts — clinical depression — some parts of Jane's diary are stolen from her and put on the internet

Profile Image for julianna ➹.
207 reviews263 followers
July 26, 2018
+ hilarious main character. so much dry humor and I LOVE IT
+ interesting talks about psychology
+ written in a journal format and v unique!
+ delves into sensitive topics and discovering yourself
+ in a college setting! i love college even though i've never been!
+ overall amazing pls read
Profile Image for Brooke.
276 reviews137 followers
March 31, 2018
4.5 stars for this stellar debut!

I LOVED this. I can't remember the last time I literally laughed more than a couple times in a fiction novel, let alone a YA one. Jane's voice pounds off the pages, creating a MC that you want to root for. While the concept of reality show contestants isn't new, what really stands out here is the fully fleshed being of Ms. Sinner & all she has to lose as she is faced with the brink of adulthood & the possibility of not getting a high school degree (or second chance) after all. Oelke did a wonderful job & I am in awe with how she pulled it off- especially considering this is a debut!

While the majority of the book deals with Jane's "House of Orange" woes, there's also themes of beginning to question what you have been brought up with (religion wise), the scary reality of trying to begin a life of your own, & how a person is always more than one thing. The relationship between Jane & her sister Carol was sweet & I thought the family aspect was well done. I appreciated the screenplay text format; it gave the book more authentic vibes & completely immersed me into the storyline. There's some discussion regarding a suicide attempt & depression; I could resonate so much when Jane expressed that she's felt indifferent about her life. That gray area of mental health is crucial to see in a YA novel.
Also: when are we going to get even more contemporaries set in college? There aren't enough of them.

I didn't rate this a 5 because it did feel too long. There could have been a good 75 pages or more cut down. I wasn't crazy on the "romance" either; it could have been a strictly platonic relationship, because why does there always have to be so many feelings?

All in all, I was entertained the entire time I was reading this, which is more than I can say for 85% of the books I consume in a year. Lianne Oelke is an author to watch. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for L A i N E Y (will be back).
394 reviews675 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
June 21, 2020
This should have been right up my alley. But I don’t know Jane’s voice started out fun but after a while it felt forced, a tad bit trying too hard kinda way and she got too flippant for me after a while. I’m not finishing this.
Profile Image for Eilonwy.
814 reviews205 followers
February 23, 2018
3-1/2 stars
Jane dropped out of high school just a few months before graduation, due to an Event which made everything beyond awkward. When she signs up for classes at the local community college to finish up her missing credits, she sees an ad offering a place to live for super-cheap rent (the catch: it’s all being filmed for a Big Brother-like online reality show), and convinces her parents to let her move out (not that she tells them the truth about where she’s going to be staying). The show brings Jane into close quarters with people she’d never spend time with otherwise, and brings out her very competitive spirit.
The story is told as Jane’s journal entries. And wow, does she have one incredibly sarcastic voice, so brittle I half expected this book to crumble to pieces in my hands. Jane has a lot of defenses going to keep herself from feeling anything. And yet the raw bitterness pouring off these pages manages to be very readable and even very funny. Is Jane particularly “likable”? I’d say not. But I nevertheless found her very relatable, because I’m pretty sure we all have these kinds of thoughts and attitudes. Jane just doesn’t bother to censor them, because it’s not like she’s sharing them with anyone but herself. In addition to her sarcasm, she’s also a very devious and determined competitor on that reality show, which made her very entertaining.

The biggest quirk of the writing in this is that all the dialogue is presented in screenplay fashion, with no quotation marks, and no indication of facial expressions or body language. It worked okay here as a sort of journaling shorthand, but this is the second book I’ve read this year that uses this style, and I’m hoping it’s not a trend.

Most of the focus of the story is the reality show, as Jane feels much safer talking about what she’s doing as opposed to what she’s thinking or (not!) feeling. But she does let the reader know that she’s been brought up in a very religious household (some kind of evangelical Christianity), and that her Event had to do with a crisis of faith (still ongoing) and !trigger warning! . These reveals and her continuing existential struggle add some depth to the story, but stay mostly tangential. They do come together in this beautiful and moving paragraph:

I wanted to do the show because it was different. Because I thought I could be different. I didn’t want to see the same people every day, the same high school looming over my backyard. The same routine, the same pity, the same nothingness. I thought if I saw new places and met new people, I’d feel new things. It didn’t work.

My two complaints about this book are:

One, it’s a bit on the long side. The reality show and Jane’s classes run from March through August, and the pacing in the middle of the book, around the June through July mark, really dragged for me.

Two, I had a very hard time believing that any real-life parents would ever, EVER, have let their minor daughter with Jane’s recent history move out of the house, even if Jane did pretend she was moving in with a girl she knew from high school.

One musing: I can't decide whether "Jane Sinner" is the narrator's real name, or a sort of nom-de-plume that she thinks of herself as since her religious crisis.

Overall, this was an enjoyable and highly entertaining book, and I’m grateful to Lola for bringing it to my attention! And it’s the first book I’ve ever read that’s set in Calgary!
Profile Image for Books on Stereo.
1,268 reviews176 followers
January 24, 2018
Nice Try, Jane Sinner is pure bliss. Full of memorable character and beautiful engaging/humorous writing makes this novel a true gem. If you are looking for college-centric YA, then this is the novel for you. Oelke realistically shows the transition and change one goes through in college. There are very frankly/tactfully handled discussions on suicide, therapy, mental illness, and religion that are just so beautiful and insightful.

I love this novel with all my heart, and I know you will too. Do yourself a favor and start your 2018 on a high note with this gem of a novel that stole my heart.
Profile Image for Marla Mei.
537 reviews292 followers
January 19, 2018
MY FIRST BOOK OF THE YEAR AND IT’S A FIVE-STAR READ!!!! I’m not crying you are!!! 😭😭😭

(Also, YA books set in college??? More please!)
Profile Image for ellie.
544 reviews165 followers
February 7, 2018
me at the beginning of the book: there’s no way I’m giving this 5 stars lol nice try, lianne oelke
me now: what...was...my...life...before?

RTC bc i have so many thoughts
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,403 reviews1,850 followers
December 31, 2017
no trespassing
violators will be shot
survivors will be shot again

NICE TRY, JANE SINNER might be one of the strangest books I've ever read. And yet it totally worked for me. Oelke's voice, experienced through Jane, is hilarious. I'm pretty sure I highlighted half the book. It's a strange plot -- highschool dropout enrolls in community college to finish her credits, lies about her age to get herself on a Big Brother-esque reality tv show in order to move out of her parents' place, all so she can reinvent herself after a suicide attempt.

Maybe I haven't accomplished a lot in my life so far, but not many people can say that they have a theme song. So I have that going for me, which is nice.

There are hijinks and shenanigans like you wouldn't believe, all told through Jane's journal entries, alongside some pseudo psychotherapy happening within her own mind. The format is a little strange, too, made worse by a rather terrible ARC copy, but I spent way more time laughing than I did struggling through the unfinished structure.

Wouldn't it be nice, don't you think, to not constantly compare everything you say and do to everything you've ever said and done and hope one day the good will outweigh the cringeworthy?

While this book is totally ridiculous, it's also nonetheless touching and brutally honest about the struggles we face growing up, dealing with emotions, and learning what really matters in life. Like how to be super cut-throat at laser tag.

I should feel proud. And I do. But I also might be feeling something else : guilt. It's too bad, really. I thought I outgrew that months ago.

This book might not be for everyone but it was totally for me. I love that it had a sarcastic lead, I loved how the bizarre situations just worked so well, and I adored that this was written by a Canadian author and set in a real-life Canadian city. Represent! I will totally read this author again and look forward to whatever she writes next.

4 "a cat is probably the closest thing to a child I'll ever have" stars

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Profile Image for winnie ʚïɞ.
608 reviews200 followers
May 3, 2020
five stars ∗ (tw for mentions of depression/suicide) oh boy. oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. this might be a tad bit long because i don't think i've ever related to a character or a story more than this. going into this novel, i was just excited to see the college version of big brother, because i love love love big brother. i've also heard good things about the main character, jane, and i can attest those opinions.

jane sinner was the funniest, most relatable character i've ever had the pleasure of reading about. the similarities between her and i are uncanny. for one instance, we have both struggled with our religion. i grew up in a very small, conservative, christian town, and i was raised catholic/christian, so i was directed to living a religious life very early on. for the most part, as i grew up i found myself comfortable with that lifestyle but it soon became more of a chore, a routine, rather than something that enlightens me. but as i grew up i also had more depressive episodes, and it got to the point where i just didn't think life was worth living. after a few months of going through really bad depression, i started questioning god and religion altogether. i just didn't understand how a higher being could make people suffer.

in this novel, jane goes through a similar experience, except vice versa. her startling realization about religion led her down a spiraling road that caused her to attempt suicide. because of this, i found bits of myself in jane sinner. our personalities have changed so much due to our experiences, and it's hard for the people around us to realize this. jane struggles to maintain relationships with her family, her friends, everyone. this is an aspect of depression/ attempting suicide that i wish was more prominent because this happens to a lot of us.

unfortunately, not everyone gets a second chance like jane does. she was expelled from her high school senior year, and to make up for that jane enrolls in her local community college for that chance. she decides to participate in an event called house of orange, in which total strangers live and compete together for a few months for a grand prize. this competition led jane to many difficulties, and it strained her relationship with her family and old friends.

this book is told in a diary format, which i think suited this story very well. i loved being inside jane's head; she's the funniest and most sarcastic character i've ever read about. her interest in psychology is another example of our similarities. jane applied many classical conditioning techniques to her gameplay, which, if given the chance to play big brother, i would definitely do the same. seeing her turn the game into a psychological experiment was so interesting and clever.

besides jane, the other characters were all kinda just bland in contrast, but that didn't really bother me. i was more invested in jane than her peers. her fellow competitors were all very interesting to read about, and i feel like they portrayed a good mix of college students. they all had their own unique personality, and seeing jane interact with them just added another element of humor.

overall, i thoroughly enjoyed this book. it's definitely on my favorite list now, and i'm dying to pick up my own copy because i know i'm going to want to dive back into jane's world sooner or later.
Profile Image for Trin.
1,782 reviews558 followers
April 14, 2017
Read in one sitting (with a short food break, because there is a lot of food in this book and it made me hungry. I had scallion pancakes, thanks for asking). Fantastic, hilarious, authentic voice. The choice to do the dialogue in script format is a brilliant example of form = content in a book about reality TV. And if reality TV really contained as many complicated, engaging characters as this book -- well, I would watch more of it. (I really only do cooking shows. I like food, you guys.)
Profile Image for Enne.
718 reviews112 followers
March 14, 2018
”The past doesn’t exist. It’s just a story we tell ourselves. And stories can change each time you tell them.”

5 stars
TW:mentions of suicide, depression
read full review here
*full review include favorite quotes and a spoiler section

The Writing
I love Jane’s voice so much. She is one of the funniest narrators out there and she is so fun to read from. She has this cynical, self-deprecating humor voice and it’s so great. Oh, and also, this book sort of feels like it’s written like a script and I loved the feeling it gave me of being inside the book completely because this book is about, ya know, a reality TV show.

The Plot/Pacing
I loved every single decision made with the plot, and I kid you not, there were literally moments where I was gasping for breath and there were moments where I felt like I needed to murder one of the characters in order to continue living my life peacefully. The pacing was so intricate, and I swear she probably dropped a gazillion clues that I didn’t catch because I was in such a rush to finish this. It’s just that good guys. Also, I read it during the 24-hour readathon. But, I promise it’s good.

The Characters
Jane is my favorite. There were others I also liked. They were all so well-done (how many times have I said that in this review?) and three dimensional and betrayals come from people you would never expect. These characters just added to the overall atmosphere of the TV show. And they all brought a piece of themselves into it, too, so that was nice. And I loved seeing the diversity we did in the characters (in terms of like thoughts and interests and such, not like poc/queer/disabled/etc. rep, but there was some of that, too).

This book is wonderful and I don’t know where the hype went – like y’all are seriously missing out if you haven’t read this book yet, because it’s a gem. I love it so much!! IT’S PRECIOUS AND JANE DESERVES ALL THE COFFEE (not just the instant one) AND CAKE IN THE WORLD!! aka, you should go read this book, if you haven’t yet because it’s one of the best contemporaries out there that doesn’t feature a queer main character (yes, I am making it about the gays. If you don’t like that, you can leave.)
awww, the ending was so cute. I loved this so much!! Jane's story is going to stay with me for a while.
Profile Image for fatma.
899 reviews559 followers
August 6, 2018
2.5 stars

I don't know guys...I just didn't like this that much. It was supposed to be funny but I didn't find it that funny; it was supposed to be moving but I didn't find it that moving either. I also think the diary format of Jane Sinner got in the way of its story. It felt like the story could've been more fleshed out without it. Honestly I'm kinda disappointed that I didn't like this as much as I thought I would, especially given how many people have absolutely loved it. Though I'm glad for the mental illness—specifically depression—representation, and the fact that this is set in Canada and written by a fellow Canadian, I just thought this novel wasn't all that remarkable. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Profile Image for Fadwa (Word Wonders).
547 reviews3,543 followers
August 13, 2018
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange of an honest review*

Full review originally posted on my blog: Word Wonders

TW: Depression, suicide attempt, suicidal ideations, emetophobia, ableist language, panic attack

Ever since I heard of Nice Try, Jane Sinner I’ve been eyeing a copy of my own, so I was thrilled when I got sent one by the publisher. It was promoted by everyone, their mother and their dog as a book tackling depression without sugar coating but with a lot of humour and I gotta say. I’ll have to agree. I loved this book so much. Just how honest and unfiltered it is but without taking itself too seriously.

The format in this one is quite peculiar, it’s written in journal entries without chapter separations whatsoever, at first I thought that would be dauting but it was surprisingly quite the fast read. Like a true diary, it’s just day after day after day, sometimes one page would contain two days while other days would expend over pages and pages. In that way, it felt very authentic. The way the dialogue was written threw me off a little though, it was just like nothing I’ve ever read before (aside from in, like, plays) but once I got used to it, I didn’t mind it much.

So the story itself, when you read the synopsis, kind of prepares you to this being quite the entertaining read, with Jane participating in a reality TV and honestly that’s all I expected it to be, I didn’t expect it to be so fun while still tackling depression so head on. But it did. The Author never shies away from telling the hard cold truths of this mental illness (or one of the forms it manifests at least), we see Jane’s good and bad days, we see her be the light of the party as well as being unable to get out of bed. And I never felt overwhelmed by it as I often do with books tackling depression, because of the MC’s sarcastic and nonchalant voice.

Besides that, Nice Try, Jane Sinner also gives quite the importance to showing different perspectives and people having different relationships to religion (Christianity in this case), from Jane who was born into it and ended up finding that she just didn’t believe, to Bonnie, her bisexual best friend who chose it and whose faith grew stronger every day. It also goes in depth into Jane’s friendships, from her high school friends to the friendships she starts when she joins community college and how those are different from each other and how she is different in each of them.

Jane is such a flawed, funny and smart character. She’s kind of an ass and she knows it but doesn’t like to admit it to herself. She also pretends not to care about anything or anyone but cares a lot. The way she never took anything seriously and uses sarcasm as an uncrackable wall was frustrating at times but I saw so much of myself as a teen in her that I couldn’t resent her, it just made me love her more. There’s this one particular things she does where she analyzes people’s behaviours that I especially saw myself in, I tend to do that as well, not in the same way but close. Jane just kept on checking all the boxes for me.

The side character were pretty well done as well, her best friend, Bonnie doesn’t always get her, but she respects and support her even when they argue and drift apart a little. Robbie, one of her new friends and also love interest, is an indian boy and the two of them are way more similar than Jane would like to admit because she gets mad at him for the same things and strategies she uses in the show which was pretty interesting to read.

Nice Try, Jane Sinner was honestly a case of right book at the right time for me, I picked it up when I need it most I think and it made me laugh while making me feel seen and acknowledged.
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews189 followers
April 25, 2018
2.5 stars.

Nice Try, Jane Sinner is a standalone contemporary book about a girl who dropped out of high school because of depression and is now taking part in a reality show.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Not because I thought there was anything wrong with it - it's one of the few books with a character with a mental illness that isn't exactly about her mental illness, and we need more of this - but because this is one of those books that start out funny and rapidly become boring.

The only thing that makes this book worth reading is Jane's narration. Nice Try, Jane Sinner nails perfectly the "depression humor", that kind of cynicism + sarcasm + self-deprecation mix that is probably extremely irritating to read unless you've been trough it. Its depiction felt real to me, but this and the exploration of faith are the only interesting things about this book.

Jane grew up in a religious family, but at some point she realized she didn't believe anymore. It means a lot to me when books look at what it's like to not believe when you're living in a religious environment. You're forced to fake it, and you feel like an impostor in your own house. Jane hasn't lived with this realization for years, but this is still a thing that affects her. I find surprising how little American books talk about faith, and I don't mean only the negative experiences. Faith, or the lack of it (especially when faith/the lack of it isn't the norm), changes the way you see the world.
I loved how Nice Try, Jane Sinner book approached this, but here the positive part of this review ends.

My main problem with this book was my own boredom. I finished it in one afternoon, but I also feel like I wasted my time. The first half of this book was interesting, 4-star-funny, and the second half was romance and boredom. The reality show thing got old at least 200 pages before the actual ending, and the writing or the characters weren't interesting enough to carry the story on their own, especially with a plot as predictable as this one. Jane was the only character who was actually developed, and even if her narration was interesting, the writing was very dry.
Also, this book dragged. It didn't need to be 400 pages, which is almost always too much for a contemporary anyway.

One more thing: it's not this book's fault, but why is comorbidity never a thing in books about mental illness? It's common in real life, so...
Profile Image for Katie.
361 reviews68 followers
April 26, 2021
It will be extremely difficult for me to produce an "objective" review (if such a thing even existed), because of how strongly I related to our main character, the titular Jane Sinner. Her mental health experience so closely mirrors mine that as soon as I finished it, I shoved it in my mother's face saying, "If you want to know me, read this book." That being said, trigger warnings for depression and suicide in this novel.

Jane is funny, and spunky, and sassy, and everything I wish I was. There is a running joke where she consistently messes up idioms on purpose (think "curiosity killed the cat's pajama's" or something like that) because she knows her dad hates it, and that is exactly my brand of humor. Not all of the other characters are particularly notable, but the premise is a reality tv show, like Survivor: College Edition, where people get voted off, so the characters that get the boot early understandably don't have a lot of development. The ones that stick around longer are interesting in their own ways and I enjoyed seeing Jane's interactions with them.

One thing I wish there was more of was character motivation. This is hard to show with any character but Jane since this novel is in a diary format, but I wish there had been more conversations with other characters about why they had done certain things. I also wish we had gotten more of Jane's "before" personality. There are multiple mentions of her personality being a little more subdued and she kind of describes herself as a doormat, but all of that is told, not shown. Again, because this is a diary, we couldn't have a proper flashback or anything, but I would have liked to see more of that change.

Both of those are small potatoes complaints given how much I love the message this book sends. It is about the drama of a reality tv show, and I loved the parts that were drama-filled, but it was unexpectedly a "mental health book" as well, and it really was more of that than the drama. I cannot separate this book and Jane herself from me, so I don't think this could ever be less than five stars. I went into this expecting something fairly lighthearted and cute, and came away with a new top 5 favorite of all time. I'll say to you all what I said to my mother: "If you want to know me, read this book."
Profile Image for brie.
578 reviews50 followers
July 28, 2022
• this was such a fresh take on representing depression in fiction and i’m literally so here for it. this book was not a book about a girl tackling and overcoming her depression but a book about a girl LIVING with depression. it was so relatable and i felt so represented and it resonated so deeply in me i can’t even put it into words. so many books featuring depression fail to do anything with me because they’re just dark and bleh but nice try jane sinner is funny, bittersweet and completely changes the game on the standard mental health book.

• it’s a book about second chances, about being able to make mistakes, being able to overcome challenges and just saying “fuck this” and it just felt so refreshing and brought me so much joy

• jane sinner is one of my favourite characters in all of existence; she is relatable, snarky, funny, determined and all right amazing. she is such a developed character and seeing her grow over the course of the story. gemini supremacy everybody (source: your token clinically depressed gemini aka me)

• literally all the characters are so funny, amazing and unique. from ap, marc, robbie, dubs, jenna, etc. they were all so funny and developed and literally brought me so much joy aghhhh they were such an amazing supportive cast

i loved it so much if you can’t tell!!!!!!
Profile Image for Ashley .
231 reviews
September 1, 2018
I will read anything Lianne blesses onto paper next. End of story. This book was so snarky and witty, I literally was laughing out loud on my lunch break at work. There are few books that can genuinely get me to just explode with uncontrollable laughter. Well done, Lianne. Besides the snark, I am a huge fan of Big Brother, so with that as a selling point in the synopsis, I was well..sold! You definitely get that Big Brother feel to it. I loved that there were deeper things covered in this book as well, it was executed phenomenally. I can't say a single bad thing about this masterpiece. I am beyond excited to pre-order whatever she comes out with next! Dare I say this is my favorite read of the year? Indubitably.
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