The Rumor Gas by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra is a YA contemporary novel set to be published on March 1, 2022. This novel uses mixed-media to explore how rumors run rampant and impact the lives of three high school girls in a prep school outside of Washington, DC. I really enjoyed those discussions as well as a lot of other hard-hitting topics covered in this book but ultimately didn’t like the characters and some of the plot points and ended up rating it 3 stars.
All it takes is one spark to start a blaze.
At Foxham Prep, a posh private school for the children of DC’s elite, a single rumor has the power to ruin a life.
Nobody knows that better than Bryn. She used to have it all—the perfect boyfriend, a bright future in politics, and even popularity, thanks to her best friend, cheer captain Cora. Then one mistake sparked a scandal that burned it all to the ground.
Now it’s the start of a new school year and the spotlight has shifted: It’s geeky Georgie, newly hot after a summer makeover, whose name is on everyone’s lips. When a rumor ignites, Georgie rockets up the school’s social hierarchy, pitting her and Cora against each other. It grants her Foxham stardom . . . but it also makes her a target.
As the rumors grow and morph, blazing like wildfire through the school’s social media, all three girls’ lives begin to unravel. But one person close to the drama has the power to stop the gossip in its tracks. The question is—do they even want to?
This was a really interesting idea that just lacked the punch I was expecting and ended up pretty middle of the road. There are some great discussions on racism, fatphobia, mental health, bullying, and many more but the focus is the rumors and how it impacts three girls. The problem with this is that the girls themselves were pretty unlikeable so I never got emotionally invested in their stories. I think I could have accepted this more if it wasn’t so obvious who had started the rumors. If it had more a thriller feeling with trying to figure out who did what, this could have worked but as it was, there was no intrigue and unlikeable characters and that combination left me not caring. (Side note: The book is actually billed as a social thriller which I find to be misleading as the reveal of who is behind the rumors happens really early on and wasn’t even surprising when it was revealed as there are a ton of hints given before that.)
Georgie was definitely my favorite character and I thought her storyline was the most interesting. She makes some bad choices and the whole “plan” was really stupid but I could still get behind her. Her story alone or even with Cora as a counterpoint could have worked better for me than the 3 POV story I got. The chapters with Brynn really just took me out of the story because she is so delusional. Her whole story is her trying to get back with the in crowd after she does a pretty terrible thing that happens before the start of the book. How that storyline played out did not ring true to me at all and didn’t fit with the rest of the book.
Overall, this wasn’t bad and there will be people who really enjoy it I’m sure, but sadly, I wasn’t one of them.
* I received a free ARC from NetGalley (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review.
** The mixed-media portions in this ARC were a formatting mess and really hard to read (some of the newspaper articles were unreadable with a jumble of text jumping between sentences). I assume this will be fixed in the final version and have not included this in my rating.