Amelia Westlake Was Never Here
Author: Erin Gough
Publication Date: 21 May 2019
Genre: YA – Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: The NOVL/Poppy/Little, Brown
A fiercely funny, queer romantic comedy about
two girls who can’t stand each other, but join forces in a grand feminist plan
to expose harassment and inequality at their elite private school.
Harriet Price is the perfect student: smart, dutiful, over-achieving. Will Everhart is a troublemaker who’s never met an injustice she didn’t fight. When their swim coach’s inappropriate behavior is swept under the rug, the unlikely duo reluctantly team up to expose his misdeeds, pulling provocative pranks and creating the instantly legendary Amelia Westlake–an imaginary student who helps right the many wrongs of their privileged institution. But as tensions burn throughout their school–who is Amelia Westlake?–and between Harriet and Will, how long can they keep their secret? How far will they go to make a difference? And when will they realize they’re falling for each other?
Award-winning author Erin Gough’s Amelia Westlake Was Never Here is a funny, smart, and all-too-timely story of girls fighting back against power and privilege–and finding love while they’re at it.
This is a fantastic YA contemporary novel that confronts issues of sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and discrimination, which are running rampant at Rosemead Grammar, a prestigious boarding school in Australia. Wilhelmina (Will) Everhart and Harriet Price are as opposite as they come. Harriet is the golden child of Rosemeade while Will is, well, the bottom of the barrel so to speak. They both tolerate each other, but they’re not exactly friends.
After Will and Harriet witness their sleazy swim coach, Coach Hadley, make inappropriate comments (yet again) to another girl in their cohort, they decide it is time to take matters into their own hands. Together, they decide to submit a cartoon to their school paper that exposes Coach Hadley for the pervert that he is, and they fabricate a pseudonym by the name of Amelia Westlake in the process.
After the cartoon reaches instant fame status at Rosemead, Harriet and Will decide it’s time to finally expose their English teacher who arbitrarily assigns grades based on her opinion of the students rather than their aptitude. “Amelia” stays behind class and rearranges the cover sheets that contain the students’ assigned identification numbers instead of their names (this is supposed to make the grading process anonymous). When the girls receive their grades, their fears were confirmed when the grade they got was based off of the student number on their essays, which lead the entire class to descend into utter chaos.
I really enjoyed watching Harriet and Will team up to rebel against the discrimination that the students have come to accept as normal at Rosemeade. It was utterly frustrating that these teachers (especially the Principal) were allowed to get away with this type of behavior, and no one even batted an eyelash. I was surprised that the parents of a posh institution like Rosemeade didn’t mandate 24-hour security surveillance on campus, which would have exposed the abhorrent behavior much sooner.
I did enjoy watching Harriet and Will’s slow-burn romance unfold, but I did not like the fact that Harriet was already in a committed relationship while her feelings for Will were made quite clear. This may be a trigger for other readers, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Will’s strong will and independence made her one of my favorite characters. Even though she continually got the short end of the stick since she did not come from these incredibly wealthy parents, she refuses to accept the status quo at Rosemeade. Harriet’s character was a bit frustrating at first because she was the classic exemplary student that dismisses questionable behavior from trusted adults because that’s the expectation of Rosemeade. However, once Harriet is “awakened”, I fell in love with her determination to make things right.
Overall, this was a great book that really tackles the notion of standing up for justice and equality, especially when others are too afraid to do so.
Thank you The NOVL for an advanced copy of this book. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.
Have you read Amelia Westlake Was Never Here? Is it on your TBR?