Gone Too Far by Natalie D. Richards: Excerpt and Review

Gone Too Far
by Natalie D. Richards
To be published by Sourcebooks
on January 6, 2015

Source: Thanks to Sourcebooks for approving me on Netgalley :)

Synopsis provided by publisher: Keeping secrets ruined her life. But the truth might just kill her. Piper Woods can't wait for the purgatory of senior year to end. She skirts the fringes of high school like a pro until the morning she finds a notebook with mutilated photographs and a list of student sins. She's sure the book is too gruesome to be true, until pretty, popular Stella dies after a sex-tape goes viral. Everyone's sure it's suicide, but Piper remembers Stella’s name from the book and begins to suspect something much worse. Drowning in secrets she doesn’t want to keep, Piper’s fears are confirmed when she receives an anonymous text message daring her to make things right. All she needs to do is choose a name, the name of someone who deserves to be punished...

Excerpt courtesy of Sourcebooks:

I unzip my bag, rifling through stuff that’s worthless right now: proof sheets from the homecoming dance, my history textbook— might be useful if I hadn’t already taken that test—an extra lens cap. My fingers close around a slim, spiral-bound spine. That notebook I found.

I pull it out. Maybe, by some stroke of cosmic luck, it’s someone else’s AP chemistry notes. Fat chance, but I’m desperate.

I open the book and frown at the three large words handwritten on the inside of the cover.
Malum Non Vide

Great. Latin notes. I think it’s Latin, anyway. Regardless, it’s useless to me.

I sigh, running a finger down the cardboard pocket insert that protects the first page. Funny. I’ve never seen anyone use these stupid things, but I can feel a thick lump in this one. I pull back the cardboard far enough to see what’s inside—pictures. A whole stack of them. A photographer not checking out a stack of prints is about as likely as a cat resisting an open can of tuna. It’s not exactly snooping, more like creative curiosity.

I slide a couple of photos out by the edges. Poor quality black and white snapshots taken around the school from what I can tell. I straighten the top photo to get a better look. It’s Isaac Cooper…but it’s wrong.

Isaac’s eyes are empty. White sockets glare out at me, windows to a place where Isaac’s soul used to be.

I feather my thumb over the face, feeling the jagged scrapes and tears in the photo. The eyes weren’t just colored over—they were gouged out. And someone took their time about it, picking out bits of iris and pupil, leaving nothing but a pale oval framed by his eyelids.
A chill ghosts up my spine, nesting in the hair at the nape of my neck.

Who would do this? I try to picture it; someone hunched over with a needle, scratching away. The image sends my stomach into free fall.

I flip to the next picture. Anna Price. Her eyes are gone too. I keep flipping—Kristen, Ming, that guy who always seems to be dating one of the cheerleaders. Three more pictures. Six more gaping holes where eyes should be. My heart beats faster, pushing ice into my veins.

I put the pictures back with shaking hands.

What the hell kind of book is this?

*                  *                  *                    *                    *                *                *                *

My take: Gone Too Far is a contemporary suspense and revenge story. The main character, Piper, is a senior who dreams of being a globetrotting photojournalist, but for her final year in high school, must resign herself to being on the yearbook staff. One day, Piper's running late for class and finds a mysterious notebook, a book with secrets about all Piper's classmates, but with students' names written in code. Piper's mildly intrigued, but then one student's secret is outed, resulting in tragedy. Then Piper is contacted by text by an anonymous person who asks her help in getting revenge. Piper agrees and texts back the name of the person she deems most responsible. And so begins her uneasy partnership with a person who may or may not have a hidden agenda against the mean/popular kids in school... But can Piper trust this anonymous vigilante? 

If you're thinking this book has a strong PLL (Pretty Little Liars) vibe, it does. The anonymous texts, the bullying, the secrets -- all of this reminded me a bit of the show, which is a guilty pleasure of mine. Gone Too Far did take a while to set its plot up -- I'd say I wasn't fully invested until about a third of the way in -- but once Piper becomes a full accomplice of Mystery Texter, with unforseen consequences, things get considerably more gripping. I liked the fact that Piper really does mess up and gets herself into quite the situation. There's also a romance that I thought added a nice touch to the book while keeping a nice balance of suspense and swoon.

I'm pretty good at guessing culprits, and I was sure that I'd picked out this book's villain based on some random details that didn't seem essential to the story,  but was happy to be completely and totally wrong. I did think at the end, things got a little bit clunky as the loose ends were wrapped up, but all in all I did enjoy this.

The mean girls and high school hijinks in this one won't be for every reader, but I'd definitely recommend it to those who are looking for a book with a PLL vibe and/or a YA revenge story..

About the author: Ohioan and Double RWA Golden Heart Finalist Natalie D. Richards won her first writing competition in the second grade with her short story about Barbara Frances Bizzlefishes (who wouldn't dare do the dishes). After getting lost in a maze of cubicles, Natalie found her way back to storytelling, following the genre of her heart, teen fiction. Natalie lives in Ohio with her amazing husband, their three children, and a giant dust-mop who swears he’s the family dog.


  1. I enjoyed reading the review, and I'm wishing you and your family a wonderful 2015!

  2. I've been reading great things about this book. It sounds like my type of read! I'm definitely adding this on my TBR. Great review! :)

    czai @ the Blacksheep Project

  3. This isn't really my kind of book but I liked that you couldn't guess who it was right away.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

  4. I don't even know how I missed this one! This one sounds like Get Even (Gretchen McNeil) and PLL. I LOVED the PLL books until they went way left. (Like way way way left). And it's always good when you can't guess the villain from the first page.

    Thanks for the review Jen, I'll definitely be on the look-out for this one!

    Happy New Year!

  5. While I truly enjoyed Richard's Six Months Later, this book is probably something that will not make my reading queue. I'm just not a fan of PLL. I'm glad I read your review, otherwise, I'll probably ordering this one based on her debut work.

  6. I really liked Six Months Later and was planning on checking this out. Especially if you can't guess who the villain is. I always love being surprised.

  7. Ooh this one sounds really good! I love a good story of revenge. I love when I guess wrong, it shows good plot twists :) Lovely review, Jen!

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books

  8. I just finished writing up my review for this one, which will post tomorrow. I felt like this one was very different from her first book, which I liked more. My favorite part was Nick and that the author let her characters screw up. Great review!

    Tressa @ Wishful Endings


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