Five teens, who couldn’t be more different from one another, wind up together in detention: Nate, the drug dealer who’s on probation; Bronwyn, the future valedictorian; Cooper, Bayview High’s star baseball pitcher; Addie, the popular girl with the popular boyfriend; and Simon, the creator of Bayview’s notorious gossip app, where he spills the secrets of all his classmates—sometimes ruining their lives. But before detention is over, Simon is dead, and the other students who were in the room with him quickly become the police’s number one suspects. They all claim to be innocent, but is one of them lying?
I think I loved this book more than most people. Like obviously it’s popular enough to spawn an adaptation, but I was obsessed with this book and its characters. I was on edge through the whole story and the ending really caught me by surprise. Definitely a heart-pounding book with a unique story—kind of like Breakfast Club meets an Agatha Christie whodunnit. And though the characters seem very stereotyped on the outside, you gradually realize there’s much more to them than meets the eye.
Loving these characters so much, I was extremely interested to see which actors would be playing them in Peacock’s adaptation. I was surprised to see not a single familiar face. Peacock actually cast young, new actors—and I am here for it! None of them even have a Wikipedia page, save for the actor who plays Simon (Mark McKenna). Personally, I think everyone did an outstanding job. Though not all the characters were how I pictured them in my head, they are absolutely how I’ll picture them from now on.
Annalisa Cochrane played Addy, the girl everyone mistakes for being “a dumb blonde.”
Cochrane is absolutely gorgeous and even pulls off the pixie cut she gets later in the season. I really liked how she portrayed Addy—she was exactly how I pictured her in the book. I hope to see her in more shows and movies in the future.
Chibuikem Uche starred as Cooper, the up-and-coming baseball player.
I think in the book he’s a golden-haired white boy, so I was excited to see Uche cast for the role. He honestly nailed it and, just like Addy, was exactly how I pictured him while reading.
Marianly Tejada was cast as Bronwyn, the uptight, brainy girl.
In the book, Bronwyn is my absolute favorite character, and her romance with Nate is what made the book extra amazing for me. So, why did I feel…unimpressed by Bronwyn in the show? I don’t think it was Tejada’s fault—she looked the part and played it well. I think it was more how the show wrote her character. She wasn’t at all the way she was in the book and let me tell you I am upset about it. But seriously, kudos to Tejada for doing the best she could with that part.
The last of the Bayview Four but certainly not the least, Nate, is played by Cooper van Grootel.
I am not by any means upset about this casting choice. I think I’m a Cooper van Grootel stan for life after that performance. He did a fantastic job as Nate, a drug dealer who is actually the most endearing and best character in the book. I won’t lie, I absolutely pictured him as a broody dark-haired emo boy rather than this, but again: I’m not mad. What I am mad about is the way the show writers absolutely ruined Nate and Bronwyn’s relationship. Like I cannot express how upset I am about it. In the book, they start out as old friends who haven’t spoken in years, but quickly the good-girl-bad-boy romance flares up and they spend the entire book growing closer. Sure, they get into a fight towards the end, but the book ends with them very much on good terms. The show? Nahnahnah. They kill the romance between these two. There’s some build-up and tension and a kiss or two, okay, but the chemistry isn’t really there, it’s awkward, and it ends horribly! I’m not sure they even like each other at the end of the show!
Anyway, I digress. There’s much more to discuss about this adaptation. I’m just mad.
When reading the book, you’re spending the whole thing trying to guess who kills Simon. I found it very hard to believe it was any of the main characters, so mostly I was trying to think who else wanted Simon dead. I was pretty shocked to find out he killed himself. This made for a sad ending: even though Simon was a jerk, he was struggling mentally and wound up ending his life. Very creatively, sure, and still in a really rude way by trying to blame others for his murder, but still. It was a very creative ending and I was surprised by it. I really liked it.
The show does a great job making you suspect everyone, including the Bayview Four. Reading the book, you’re in these characters’ heads. You’re very close to them, so it’s hard to suspect them. But in the show, if you haven’t read the book, they’re just people to you. So each episode kind of focuses on a different character and their secret, trying to get you to suspect them until the next episode. I enjoyed that a lot. For a few episodes I forgot who the accomplice even is. Because of course someone helped Simon, and that someone is Jake.
Jake (Barrett Carnahan) is the wooooooooorst. Not only is he a terrible boyfriend to Addy (yeah, I know, she cheated on him, but still), but he’s also in on Simon’s plan and continues to post on About That after Simon’s death. He pretends he doesn’t already know Addy’s secret until it’s posted on the app, and in the end, almost kills Addy in the woods if not for Cooper saving her life.
So I was fully prepared for this to happen in the show. For the most part, it follows the original plot up to this point, though a lot of things are added to the story to make it more interesting. I was totally fine with all those inclusions. What I was not ready for was a different ending. A much darker ending. In the show, Simon doesn’t kill himself of his own volition. Instead, Jake tricks Simon into killing himself. Jake and Simon plan a prank to get the Bayview Four in trouble, but instead, Jake lets Simon die, framing them for murder instead.
I personally liked the book’s ending more, but whatever. I guess this is still a twist for viewers and wound up surprising even me, a reader of the book. But it doesn’t end there. Addy runs into the woods with Jake following her (quite murderously). Cooper follows. And here, Cooper is supposed to save the day. But he doesn’t. Instead, Jake winds up being killed. He does not go to jail. The Bayview Four are not heroes who solved a murder and stopped another. Nope. No, of course not. Because instead, they cover up Jake’s death and lie to the police. And someone knows what they did.
WHY. Just WHY.
I was speechless. I was so confused. I was appalled. My beloved characters would not have done that. And now I have no idea what to expect from S2. Because the end of book 1—the main characters going off to college and Jake going to jail—sets up the plot for book 2: a deadly game of Simon Says involving Maeve (Bronwyn’s younger sister) and her classmates. But now…I have on idea what’s going to happen in S2. Because the main characters covered up a murder. And they were only juniors, so they didn’t graduate and go to college. I assume the game of Simon Says is still going to happen, or something like it, based on the end of the final episode. But I’m not happy about all the changes to the ending. Maybe I’m just being a stickler for the original source text, but I don’t really see the purpose for the change. I found the book’s ending much twistier, more satisfying, and a great segue into book 2. The show’s ending didn’t match up with what I think the characters would have actually done.
So though I loved the show with my whole being and was thrilled to see this story on screen, I was bummed about the changes to the end. I’m not sure what they’ll do with S2, but regardless, I do hope it happens. I know I’m going to enjoy it just as much as I enjoyed seeing these characters and this story translated on screen. Especially if they fix whatever is going on with Bronwyn and her relationship with Nate. And especially if they give Maeve (Melissa Collazo) more screen time. Is it weird that I’m wildly attracted to her?..
So yeah, she better play a bigger role in the second season, because I was really excited to see her as a main character like she is in book 2.
Overall, a good adaptation that allowed a bunch of new actors to get some screen time. I liked many of the additions to the story, though I disliked the changes to the ending, the lack of chemistry between Bronwyn and Nate, and whatever they did to make Bronwyn boring and unlikable… The absolute hype I felt while watching this show, though? Extreme.