Did I Say You Could Go
reviewed by Cara DiCostanzo
Welcome to Hillside Academy in Oakland, California, where the girls are mean, but their mothers are so much worse.
Ruth is desperate to make friends in her new neighborhood. Her daughter, Marley, will start kindergarten at Hillside Academy and Ruth wants to give her shy kid a chance to make friends. Hence, the kindergarten meet-and-greet. Ruth is hosting, complete with lobster, cocktails, a special movie for the young ones, and a caterer catering to the parents. While it is Ruth’s hope that she and Marley will make friends, the party has the opposite effect. Her obnoxious display of wealth turns the parents in crunchy Oakland off.
Enter Gemma and Bee, her friendly and loquacious daughter. Gemma is a widow, having lost her husband in a terrible accident when Bee was three. She is lonely and also looking to make new friendships. As she looks around the room at all the lucky families, her “singleness” feels apparent. Gemma gravitates towards Ruth, the only other single parent in the room, though divorced and not widowed. They become great friends and Gemma can’t believe how lucky she is. Ruth takes Gemma and Bee on lavish vacations, fancy dinners, and even buys Gemma a new car. After a while, Gemma feels smothered by the friendship, and indebted to Ruth. When scandal strikes and word comes out that Ruth is having an affair with a married man, Gemma distances herself.
Several years have passed where Gemma and Ruth have not spoken, and suddenly Gemma is the one struggling with scandal. Ruth sends a message to Gemma, offering her support, and it is like no time has passed and they are best friends again. But quickly, Gemma once again feels wary of Ruth, who is suddenly offering to buy her new cars and anything she wants.
Not only do Gemma and Ruth revive their friendship, but so too do Bee and Marley. Though Bee is popular, Marley is introverted and doesn’t have any friends. Despite Bee’s attempts to pull her into her group of friends at Hillside, Marley remains the outcast she always was.
Did I Say You Could Go has it all: backstabbing, gossip, mommy groups, and characters who are not quite what they seem. Melanie Gideon has done an amazing job re-creating a fictional high school that seems all too real to the reader who has experienced it. There are many twists and turns in this novel that kept us glued to our seat. There are also some triggers including cyber bullying, eating disorders, child abuse, and teen suicide. The shocking ending will have you obsessing over this book for days.