99 Days features one of the most overused YA tropes, a love triangle. However, given that the book takes place AFTER the drama went down (a year after to be exact), it's more focused on the aftermath, and on protagonist Molly's return to Star Hollow, a town where everyone knows what she did, and everyone is intent on punishing her, rather than the two guys involved. The book tackles issues of bullying, girl on girl hate, and, most importantly, slut shaming. Molly is the victim of some pretty severe actions (keying her car, egging her house, etc) and it's fascinating yet repulsive to see how she, as the female in the situation, bears the brunt of the shame and scandal. Cotungo does a good job of realistically portraying how Molly becomes the scapegoat and the mob mentality that allows the boys to get off relatively free despite their involvement in their shenanigans, and it's rather horrifying to see how society reacts this way and puts into perspective a LOT about how females are treated, especially in high school when it comes to dating and their associated reputations.
Now, despite the feminist tone of the novel, that did not keep the protagonist Molly from making some very poor decisions that often times hurt other people and/or worsened her situation. And yet...I still found myself liking her. It's so rare that you see female protagonists who get to be imperfect and still have other positive traits (being hardworking, intelligent, funny, etc), and Molly's all of these things despite her rather inconsiderate choices when it comes to boys. I liked that 99 Days turns so many of the stereotypes surrounding girls embroiled in relationship drama on its head, and managed to make a story about a love triangle not JUST about a love triangle- I feel like I still got to know Molly and her personality outside of a romantic context as well.
99 Days also put a unique spin on family system representation, with Molly being the adopted daughter of a single mother. I feel like I don't read too many books about adopted protagonists (though if you're interested, I HIGHLY recommend Far From the Tree by Robin Benway, it's fantastic) so it was a unique element in the story. Molly's relationship with her mother is also rather interesting, as her mother serves as a catalyst for much of the drama that goes down, as she took Molly's private experiences to use them as the basis for a bestselling novel, which is how the entire town found out about Molly's business. A secondary, yet important, plot element in the book was Molly and her mother navigating and fixing their relationship that her mother's book broke seemingly beyond repair.
Overall: 99 Days isn't a fun read, it isn't a quick read, and it isn't an easy read. It's a story that's not afraid to be messy and flawed and actually TALK about the repercussions and fall out from the protagonist's decisions, whether deserved or not. It's something I wish every teenager had to read because it really makes us examine why we place blame the way we do on females in social situations and forces us to confront some of our own biases as we navigate the story through Molly's (the "antagonist" in many ways) POV. I think this is a story that, whether you like it or not, will make you THINK and has the potential to open up important dialogues.This review was originally posted on Girl in the Pages