on April 4th 2017
Seventeen-year-old Delilah Green wouldn't have chosen to do her last year of school this way, but she figures it's working fine. While her dad goes on a trip to fix his broken heart after her mom left him for another man, Del manages the family cafe. Easy, she thinks. But what about homework? Or the nasty posse of mean girls making her life hell? Or her best friend who won't stop guilt-tripping her? Or her other best friend who might go to jail for love if Del doesn't do something? But really, who cares about any of that when all Del can think about is beautiful Rosa who dances every night across the street. . . . Until one day Rosa comes in the cafe door. And if Rosa starts thinking about Del, too, then how in the name of caramel milkshakes will Del get the rest of it together?
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Get It Together, Delilah!, originally published in Australia as The Flywheel, was a short and sweet YA contemporary. It was kinda fun, I guess, if a bit frivolous. The story follows our protagonist, Delilah, when her father goes out of the country for two months and leaves her to run her family’s cafe in his absence. That being said, I had some major problems with certain language used in the book.
I’ll start by saying that I loved reading an Aussie YA novel. I wish more were published in the US! It was fun to get a glimpse of life as a teenager on the other side of the world. It really took me a while to get over the sheer improbability of Delilah’s situation, though– not only did her father leave her to fend for herself for months (Del has no siblings and an absent mother), but also rarely contacted her to check in on her or the cafe. I mean, she ended up unofficially dropping out of school to manage the Flywheel! There is passing mention of her teacher being worried about Delilah and trying to get her to come back to school, but somehow Del manages to keep up this charade and no law enforcement gets involved, despite the fact that she is a minor and so much of her situation is probably hella illegal. And on top of all the cafe stuff, one of Del’s friends is living with her while hiding from law enforcement. I just… what even? I would have enjoyed this book much more if the premise didn’t feel so incredulous, and as a result, so lazy on the author’s part.
With that gripe out of the way, I will say that I enjoyed Del’s growth over the course of the novel. It took a while for her to realize how selfish and stubborn she was being towards the people around her, but she did eventually realize the error of her ways. I feel like she learned to view situations through lenses other than her own, which is an important lesson many of us learn as teenagers. I did really like Del’s love interest, Rosa, as well. I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop, and of course, yay for more f/f rep in YA! I kinda feel like Delilah didn’t deserve Rosa, though. She basically tries to pressure Rosa into coming out to her family so that the two of them could be in a public relationship because Del is tired of hiding. Of course, Rosa’s safety comes second to Del’s desires. *eye roll* This eventually gets resolved and Del sees the error of her ways, but I’m upset it even happened in the first place. Homophobia is also addressed in the novel– both from Rosa’s parents, and from the mean girls who bully Del at school. I did appreciate this, but the amount of homophobia/lesbophobia is pretty heavy, so a definite trigger warning for those things.
However, this brings me to my next point: there were definitely some problematic stereotypes and language at play, mostly dealing with mental illness. *Trigger warning for anorexia, eating disorders, depression, and suicidal ideation* Firstly, there is a scene where one of Delilah’s friends, Misch, wonders why “guys always go for preppy anorexics.” Um, no. Anorexia is a serious disease, not an insult to throw around lightly– ESPECIALLY in the context of girl hate (this statement is also a classic example of *~not like other girls~*). Another of Del’s friends, Lucas, continues this harmful discussion, remarking that one of their other friends, Lauren, “is preppy and anorexic, and [a particular guy] hasn’t gone for her.” THEN, Misch responds by saying that Lauren “only looks anorexic because she’s too tall.” NO. You can’t “look anorexic.” Eating disorders manifest in vastly different ways for different people. UGH. If all of this wasn’t already enough, there’s also quite a vivid scene of suicidal ideation from Delilah, whose POV the story is told from. It was shockingly jarring and, honestly, I found it pretty triggering, as I’ve been in quite a dark place recently. I hate that this scene comes out of nowhere with no warning. Later in the book, one of Delilah’s friends approaches asking Del what’s wrong by remarking that she “has her depressed face on.” CRINGE. Again, you can’t “look like” any given mental illness. These are invisible illnesses. And, of course, they shouldn’t be tossed around casually or in a joking manner. The words “crazy” and “insane” are thrown around casually throughout the book, too. I’ll be honest, as a person who suffers from multiple mental illnesses, this hurt. Badly. All of this ableist language is most of the reason why I’m giving Get It Together, Delilah! such a low rating. Language matters. Situations like these only serve to reinforce damaging popular misconceptions about mental health and mentally ill people. I can only hope that some of this harmful language was changed in the finished copy of this book.
Also, another horrible stereotype: the “villain” of the book has dreadlocks that are described as a “nest of unwashed hair,” perhaps containing “spare change” or “a family of mice.” None of these remarks are challenged later in the text. His race is never specified, but if this character, Hamish, is white, him having dreadlocks is a blatant example of cultural appropriation. If he is black, these remarks about his hair are simply wildly racist. Just a big “nope” all around, basically.
In terms of other characters, Delilah employs a large cast of side characters, but hardly any of them are fully fleshed-out or three-dimensional. They all felt very much like the author threw them in to further the plot and to challenge Delilah’s character growth in weirdly specific ways. Also, her friends are kinda the worst (obviously, there are some examples of this in the above paragraph). One of them asks her to lie under oath in court for him after he gets into a ridiculous, easily preventable altercation with a stranger that results in the person taking legal action against him. EW.
Overall, Get It Together, Delilah! fell flat for me. Though I appreciated the f/f representation, it was problematic on a few different levels, and the entire premise is just a bit too far-fetched. I cannot in good conscience recommend this book to others due to its harmful perpetuation of stereotypes about various mental illnesses.
Have you read Get It Together, Delilah!? If so, what are your thoughts? Have you ever read a book with blatantly harmful stereotypes about a marginalized community you are part of?
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