ARC Review – ‘We Were Promised Spotlights’ by Lindsay Sproul

Title: We Were Promised Spotlights
Author: Lindsay Sproul
Genre: YA Contemporary
Word/Page Count: 288 (kindle edition)
Publication Date: March 24th, 2020


Blurb from Goodreads:

The Miseducation of Cameron Post meets Everything Leads to You in this queer young adult novel.

Taylor Garland’s good looks have earned her the admiration of everyone in her small town. She’s homecoming queen, the life of every party, and she’s on every boy’s most-wanted list.

People think Taylor is living the dream, and assume she’ll stay in town and have kids with the homecoming king–maybe even be a dental hygienist if she’s super ambitious. But Taylor is actually desperate to leave home, and she hates the smell of dentists’ offices. Also? She’s completely in love with her best friend, Susan.

Senior year is almost over, and everything seems perfect. Now Taylor just has to figure out how to throw it all away.

Lindsay Sproul’s debut is full of compelling introspection and painfully honest commentary on what it’s like to be harnessed to a destiny you never wanted.

We Were Spotlights is an acquired taste and whether it works for you depends on what you look to get out of a reading experience. This book made me feel uncomfortable, and while that may not sound like a ringing endorsement, it’s actually a testament to the author’s skill at depicting the lows of teenage life in excruciating detail. So if you like to live vicariously through the protagonist of the book you’re reading, this won’t be the most enjoyable experience. But if you’re open to reading a subversive take on the Popular Mean Girl who is positioned as the anti-heroine of this book, it may be a more rewarding experience for you.

I liked the premise of the Queen Bee character as the protagonist and how a picture-perfect life on the outside can be anything but on the inside. It was actually amusing how hard Taylor tried to self-sabotage so that she could lose her role as Miss Popular and therefore be free to be herself, but her rebellion just further cemented her popularity. And while I was lured in by the prospect of a budding romance between Taylor and her best friend, the way the author developed that was an interesting subversion of expectations as it ended up instead being an examination of toxic friendships.

But I was disappointed with Taylor’s lack of personal growth and non-existent self-awareness throughout the story. She feels trapped in the role she’s expected to play in her small town and struggles to accept being a lesbian, which would normally make her a character whose happiness I’m invested in, but she outed another girl, Corvis, in a horribly cruel way and never felt guilty for it nor did she ever make amends. I respect that Taylor’s circumstances are difficult, but her method of dealing with it is to make other people miserable and then what’s even more incredible is that she continually relies on Corvis for emotional support! It’s believable that someone could be that needy and narcissistic, and in real life, people don’t always learn a lesson and change their ways, but in fiction, I look for a meaningful arc, there has to be some sign that everything I’ve read has been for a reason. I didn’t find that here.

I was surprised at how confronting this book was right from the start. I didn’t realize how much I relied on YA books sanitizing the teenage experience until I cringed my way through scene after scene of Taylor dealing with unsatisfying sexual encounters, genital herpes, sloppy drunkenness, toxic peer pressure and more. The way the teens in this book spoke and behaved with each other seemed realistic, if exceptionally depressing. There were no positive relationships and no characters to root for, as every single person was horrible in one way or another, so it felt like a bit of a chore to keep reading. It’s not my cup of tea, but then again, Euphoria isn’t my kind of show either and that’s popular enough with a similarly bleak and painfully explicit depiction of its teenage cast.

Personal Rating: 2 out of 5 kitties recommend this book.


Disclaimer: digital copy provided free from the publisher via Edelweiss for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

2 thoughts on “ARC Review – ‘We Were Promised Spotlights’ by Lindsay Sproul

    • I hate to be such a Debbie Downer, but this really didn’t work for me. someone used the term anti-aspirational to describe it and that’s spot on, it’s just so awful being these characters?? so reading about them isn’t fun, I need at least one person to root for :/ I think you have better prospects on your TBR!


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