Trigger Warnings: teacher-student relationship, publicly outing a LGBTQIA member without their consent, slut shaming.
Paloma High School is an ordinary high school until the administrators get an anonymous note saying that there is a student-teacher relationship happening at their school. We follow seven main protagonists (each resembling one deadly sin) as they, and everyone else in the school, try to figure out which teacher and which student are having relations. Each character is going through something specific and meaningful to them, which makes everything a bit messier than they expected.
I didn't know too much about this book before getting into it, I thought the seven deadly sins aspect was interesting, but other than that I pretty much picked this book up because of the cover. Plus I had heard pretty good things from it by a few BookTubers I am subscribed to.
I enjoyed the characters a lot more than I thought I would. I was worried that each character would embody their seven deadly sin so strongly that they wouldn't feel like real people. But I was pleasantly surprised, and throughout the story I kept second guessing myself when trying to figure out which sin each character represented. I liked following their separate stories and I was genuinely interested in all of them, even if some made me angrier than others.
The mystery itself of the teacher-student relationship was revealed pretty easily, and I would have personally liked to have a little more time to figure it out myself, but I think it was handled well. Sometimes with these kinds of power dynamic relationships, especially teacher-student, it can be romanticized. But the writer and characters made it very clear that it wasn't healthy or desirable.
There is some really good LGBTQIA representation and important topics of discussion in this book. One being pansexuality, and its difference from bisexuality. One of the seven protagonists is a closeted pansexual. Pansexuality is talked about a good amount in this book, which is great, but it also brings up the topic of having to constantly explain your sexuality if it isn't as well known as homosexuality or bisexuality. Anytime Lucas talks about his pansexuality you can see him immediately go into a practiced speech of what it is. He's constantly feeling the need to validate and explain it to people who don't understand, which sometimes makes him a bit defensive. Another character seems to show asexual/aromantic traits but it isn't set in stone confirmed, it is just implied. It also isn't as big of a topic as Lucas's pansexuality.
I really liked the conversation happening with Olivia and her sexual experiences. She is constantly being slut shamed while at school because she is choosing to have sex. She doesn't think it is a big deal, or anyone's business. She's practicing safe sex and doing what she wants with her body. Even some of her friends slut shame her or make jokes about having sex with multiple people at their school. The whole conversation about dealing with guys who feel like they are owed sex because she's had sex in the past, or even just dealing with unwanted nude photos popping up on her phone. I like that Riley Redgate makes it clear that some teenagers have sex and it shouldn't be looked down on.
Like I said before, the characters are not only their assigned sin, but instead they are very much like real human beings going through some real hard situations. I felt myself feel sympathetic, happy, sad, angry for each of the characters. A couple of the characters royally pissed me off, and it felt very high school drama type sometimes. Not too often, I think for a book set in high school it's very mature, but two of the characters were a bit too immature for me at times. Reading books set in high school can sometimes be a struggle for me, so although I think this is definitely one of the better high school books, I felt a bit annoyed.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and I do recommend it! I think if you're maybe a younger reader (I'd say ages 15-20) this book will resonate with you a bit more than it did me. I think there are important topics to be discussed especially among younger readers.I think the LGBTQIA representation was really great, and I thought it was a quick easy read to just fly through. I do worry that it will be a bit forgettable, but only time will tell. I wasn't full on blown away, so although I enjoyed it, it may not stick with me.