by Samantha Markum
Publication: April 12, 2022
**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
This May End Badly took a bit to get into because a lot is going on. Doe (Dorothy) is a senior at Weston School, an all-girls prep school, and leads the girls in pranking their rivals the all-boys school Winfield Academy. Doe also has 4 best friends, Shawn, Jade, Gemma, and Sumi. We meet them all immediately while they are in the middle of setting up a prank for the beginning of the school year. At the same time, we are introduced to her arch-nemesis Three Westborn and many of those belonging to the Westborn family. With introductions also comes some history. There was an immense amount of information to take in at the beginning. This only gets more overwhelming when subplots are added into the mix.
There is one overarching storyline with multiple subplots. The schools are going to be merging, and Doe, who loves Weston, is not happy about it. While she fights the merger, she also has multiple other issues to deal with: aggravating Three by fake dating his cousin, retaliating against Winfield boys for any pranks they pull, figuring out what she wants to do after high school, navigating her friendships, and the list just goes on. If the purpose is to make Doe’s life chaotic and provide a foundation for why she’s having a hard time moving forward, it is successful. The problem is that it also makes it chaotic for the reader to connect with her, at least that was the case for me. I would have liked the focus on one or two plotlines with greater introspection as opposed to so much going on that I had to 1) figure out what has happening next since everything was mixed together and 2) figure out Doe and who she is.
Doe isn’t the most likeable character and it takes a while to understand who she is beyond the pranks. She’s passionate about Weston but doesn’t always know her own mind. She is also hyper-focused, especially as it pertains to besting Three. These traits contribute to what makes her a leader but can also lead her to have tunnel vision. It wasn’t until about halfway that I began to get a better sense of the underlying conflicts. The focus on external action, like the pranks and annoying Three, concealed her internal struggles until around the halfway mark. I might have liked the book more had this been more constant. With so much going on, it meant limited space for all the subplots. I wanted more Doe fake dating Three’s cousin Wells. This was the highlight of the book for me, and there just wasn’t enough of it.
With so much going on, I was never sure what was going to happen next. A prank? Time with Wells? Time with her friends? While it was a little chaotic at times, This May End Badly was still a good read. I would recommend this to individuals who like books about friendships, school rivalries, and the difficulties of growing up. There is a subplot that might be triggering to individuals so please see the synopsis for further information about the book.