Thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers for an eARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!
As a devotee of classic novels, Mary Porter-Malcolm knows all about Mistakes That Have Been Made, especially by impressionable young women. So when a girl at her new high school nearly succumbs to the wiles of a notorious cad, Mary starts compiling the Scoundrel Survival Guide, a rundown of literary types to be avoided at all costs.
Unfortunately, Mary is better at dishing out advice than taking it—and the number one bad boy on her list is terribly debonair. As her best intentions go up in flames, Mary discovers life doesn’t follow the same rules as fiction. If she wants a happy ending IRL, she’ll have to write it herself.
Mary has always compared her life to the literary classics she adores. From Jane Austen to Charlotte Bronte and Tolstoy, she can always find comfort and answers between the pages of a book. After a particularly bad first day of public school where her only friend jilts her for being too literary, Mary finds herself giving the popular girls some literary examples of men who they should try to avoid in real life. One things leads to another and not only does she have a new group of friends but they start their own “Scoundrel Survival Guide” to help avoid the mistakes heroins make in books when choosing their leading man.
I loved everything about this book. It was so over dramatic but in the best of ways. Mary is this well read girl who knows all the classics and therefore knows some classic jerks. She was pulling out all these references and I was just astounded. I was actually googling her references to find out what books she was even talking about. It was so funny that her and her friends could just find these same traits in the guys they went to school with.
Mary herself was really endearing. She wanted people to like her but wasn’t willing to compromise on who she was or what she loved to get them to like her. That being said she was very use to seeing things as black and white, like the characters in her books, which kind of comes back to bite her in the butt later. I think she learns some important lessons though, like not to judge a book by its cover and that there’s more to someone than meets the eye.
The girl group dynamic was my favorite part about this book. You’ve got Arden the read headed outgoing bombshell, Lydia the type A always has your back might bite you lawyer, and Terry the wannabe forensic pathologist who always has the perfect crime one liners. They each brought something to the friendship and I found myself laughing quite a bit at things they said and just how serious they took these literary references that Mary was dishing out no questions asked. Her friends took her seriously and never mocked her for her knowledge or passions.
There was a tiny bit of romance. Our main guy Alex Ritter, aka Vronsky, gets a tough judgement at the beginning of the book by Mary. We get this meet cute and some great interactions between him and Mary. He was able to keep up with her pretty well in the wits department which surprised not only Mary, but me as well. I like a boy with some substance who isn’t afraid to be smart. I would have liked some more moments between him and Mary overall, but we still knew him pretty well.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced classic literature packed book I highly recommend By the Book. It’s full of friendship, family dynamic, some literary downfalls, and a great main characters who learns from her mistakes.