Published by Scholastic Press on October 11, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Source: YA Books Central
Everyone has secrets—until they go viral.
Sammy Wallach has epic plans for the end of junior year: Sneak out to the city to see her favorite band. Get crush-worthy Jamie Moss to ask her to prom. Rock all exams (APs and driver’s).
With a few white lies, some killer flirting, and tons of practice, Sammy’s got things covered. That is, until the international bank her dad works for is attacked by hacktivists who manage to steal everything in the Wallach family’s private cloud, including Sammy’s entire digital life. Literally the whole world has access to her emails, texts, photos, and, worst of all, journal.
Life. Is. Over.
Now Sammy’s best friends are furious about things she wrote, Jamie thinks she’s desperate, and she can barely show her face at school. Plus, her parents know all the rules she broke. But Sammy’s not the only one with secrets—her family has a few of its own that could change everything. And while the truth might set you free, no one said it was going to be painless. Or in Sammy’s case, private.
Diversity: 1 – Tokenism
Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Sam’s family is Jewish; her friend Rosa is Hispanic with no specified background; two characters with the surnames Karim and Chen go undescribed and also have no specified background)
Intersectionality: 1 (Racism is a major issue handled in the novel, but I don’t feel it did it well)
You know Jennifer Brown? The YA author who wrote Hate List and a bunch of other books that play out contemporary issues like sexting and a natural disaster destroying your home? If you ever needed a comp author for her because you or your teen already devoured Brown’s entire backlist, Sarah Darer Littman is that author. In Case You Missed It is yet another brilliant novel from her, but I’d appreciate it if her books would stop making me cry.
In Case You Missed It is told in first-person, but when we read Sam’s journal entries as an interlude between each chapter, readers get an even deeper look into her mind. She focuses a lot on her crush Jamie Moss and makes clear that she’s a bit shallow and childish, but that’s okay. Though my focus wasn’t on boys, I was the same way at her age and have the diary entries to prove it. (You don’t get to read them, though.) She’s a realistic girl you might know in real life and she’s also the reason you really should keep a paper diary.
Seriously, keep a paper diary instead of an online or even offline digital diary. Sure, your brother is more likely to get into your paper diary, but it’s far less likely to end up on the Internet for all to read.
Coverage of the hack, the patriarchal culture her father both engages in and fosters within his banking corporation, and the casual racism Sam encounters thanks to her dad and her friend Margo’s mom feel real and relevant without the bagging fear that this book will be dated within just a few years. The big names of news might change, but the style of coverage remains the same. I’m honestly surprised Sam encountered no anti-Semitism since her family is Jewish and her dad’s a banker. The neo-Nazis would be on that before you could say anything!
But the true heart of the novel and its most powerful element is how Littman paints tensions within Sam’s family. She and her mother have shouting matches regularly, she can hardly recognize her father post-leaks, and her little brother is an anxious mess. Seeing as my family situation is similarly volatile for very different reasons, In Case You Missed It cuts deeply a thousand different ways for me and regularly reduced me to tears. As the rift between Sam and her mother started to heal, it made me wish things were so easy in my own case.
But that’s another story I can’t currently tell. Regardless, In Case You Missed It is a novel that will deeply engage your emotions in ways other novels could only dream of and Sam’s family is given depth that family members don’t often get in YA novels.
The novel does its best to confront both systemic sexism and racism, but the latter is handled weakly at best. Though Sam is furious her father agrees to pay a recently hired woman named Aisha Rana less than he’d pay a man in the same position, it never comes up that Aisha is likely a woman of color based on her name. Intersectionality is important, but no one acknowledges that as a woman of color, she’s likely being paid even less than she would if she were a white woman or a man of color. In addition, quoting Winston Churchill regularly in a novel with racism as a minor conflict is not a smart idea given his imperialist policies caused a famine in Bengal that killed 3 million people.
One further way the novel fails readers of color: when Sam writes in her diary that Hispanic girl Rosa’s ability to sleep despite smelling of vomit must be “a cultural thing,” Rosa is rightly angry. The scene in which she forgives Sam left a lot to be desired. Sam has the knee-jerk “I’m not a racist” reaction and Rosa downgrades what she said to “a hurtful thing from a non-racist person,” which lets Sam off the hook too easily. There would have been no harm in Sam acknowledging the passive racism of what she wrote and fighting to be better than that going forward.
In Case You Missed It is an Issue book and there’s no shame in that. It’s the Issue book done right with genuine characters aplenty and a human approach to handling what teens might be struggling with instead of a didactic, novel-length lesson of what not to do. Did you read a bunch of Jennifer Brown’s backlist and love it? Did her books fail you one way or another? Sarah Darer Littman’s entire backlist should be on your TBR pile.