by Cat Clarke
Author: Cat Clarke
RRP: £4.99 (Amazon)
Undone by Cat Clarke follows the story of Jem Halliday as she attempts to come to terms with the sudden death of her best friend, Kai, who committed suicide following the publishing of a video online outing him as homosexual. As Jem's only and best friend she is distraught and contemplates following in Kai's suicide footsteps, that is, until, she discovers how vital it is for her to find out who is responsible for outing him so she can take them down.
At the start of this novel Kai is already dead and as a result we come to know him through Jem's telling of their time together, from the moment they met to the very last time she sees him. Fortunately for this story, despite Kai being deceased, he remains an important and regular character throughout allowing you to grow a greater understanding of why he committed suicide through letters he wrote for her prior to his death. This benefits the story in a massive way as typically it's hard to connect with a deceased character because you don't know enough about them.
In relation to Jem as a character I had mixed feelings about her. At one point I had a undying sympathy for her and then at the next I found myself disliking her for becoming the very embodiment of the kind of people she despises, and forgetting where she came from and what she set out to do. Jem however isn't the sort of protagonist that you have to like in order to enjoy the story because there is so much going on with other characters that they all feel just as important.
What is really gripping about this novel is Clarke really captured what school is like for teenagers in the UK without taking a somewhat stereotypical and superficial approach, unlike much of today's media. It's merely a case of trying to find your place in school and striving to do the best that you can. Of course there's the case of the unpopular kids and the popular kids, but none of that seems to matter to anyone and that is so refreshing and realistic to read because in reality not many of us really care about who is and isn't popular - it's about being comfortable with who you are and the friends you surround yourself with.
In light of the popular kids, they are presented as self-absorbed, shallow and unbelievably attractive through Jem's eyes. However when Jem comes to know them she realises that they're just as insecure and lost as every other teenager on the inside and I loved that because it's hard to remember that just because someone looks a certain way on the outside doesn't mean they're the same on the inside because of who they are and where they stand in the hierarchical structure. There's so much more to a person than their outer shell. What's particularly enjoyable about this is that these characters are flawed, they're real, and you so often find that YA characters are just too perfect to ever be considered real and relatable, so you're able to relive your school years and attach these characters to people you knew and become nostalgic through that.
Romance is a common theme in YA novels and it's so easy for that to overpower everything else in the story, that however isn't the case with this novel. Clarke finds a way to balance all of the themes in a way that doesn't become boring to read because too much of one thing is never present in every chapter.
The only thing this story needs is a greater discussion of sexuality. Although discussed regularly in Kai's letters and mentioned on the odd occasion by Jem, it's a story that is dominated by Jem's revenge but had Kai not been outed she wouldn't be where she was. Contemporary UK has taken so many of the right steps in bringing equality to all but this novel shows that that fight is still there by the way in which some characters respond to Kai's sexuality and the way it is viewed, so I just felt as if there should have been greater representation of sexual orientation.
Ultimately, Undone is a passionate and gripping YA novel about love, growing up, betrayal and revenge that will keep you hooked from start to finish and completely flip your predictions about what will happen at the closing of this story - never have I been so taken aback and astonished by an ending.
Cameron Jones (17)