They Wish They Were Us follows Jill Newman, a senior at Gold Coast Prep, a member of the elite society, the Players, and a scholarship student. Told entirely from Jill’s perspective, she takes us through the hierarchy of the Players, their selections, hazings, and ultimately initiations. But Jill is haunted by the death of her best friend Shaila when they were freshmen. Everyone assumes that Shaila’s murder was solved, that her boyfriend killed her. But when the presumed murderer’s sister contacts Jill for help finding out the truth, Jill starts to question if everything she knows about the Players is true.
Starting They Wish They Were Us, I was so excited about the plot. I thought I was going to like this book given that it was compared to Gossip Girl, filled with drama, and focused on murder. But instead, it largely focused on a whiny group of self-centered teenagers hazing new members of their secret society. I was so bored, waiting for the actual plot to begin.
About halfway through, at a major turning point in the plot, the story starts to switch gears and I instantly felt hooked. The story started to focus less on the hazing rituals Jill and friends were forcing upon the freshman and more on flashbacks to the ones they had been subjected to a few years back. The tone quietly shifted from elitist to reproachful as Jill starts to reflect on the things that happened during her freshman year and how they may have contributed to Shaila’s murder. In the end, I thought it was well done and had a good message, but I didn’t feel as though it made up for the first 150 pages of exposition.