YA Friday: Et tu, Brute?

The Ides of March

On the Roman calendar, in a 31-day month, like March, the 15th day is referred to as the Ides. It is best known as the date in which Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C.E. and is recognized as a turning point in Roman history. Caesar was stabbed to death at a meeting of the Senate. As many as 60 conspirators, led by Brutus and Cassius, were involved. According to Plutarch, a seer had warned that harm would come to Caesar no later than the Ides of March. On his way to the Theatre of Pompey, where he would be assassinated, Caesar passed the seer and joked, "The Ides of March are come", implying that the prophecy had not been fulfilled, to which the seer replied "Aye, Caesar; but not gone." This meeting is famously dramatized in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, when Caesar is warned by the soothsayer to "beware the Ides of March."

Beyond Caesar's assassination, the 15th of March has also been a notorious date in history for other bad events such as the German Occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939, a deadly blizzard on the Great Plains of North Dakota and Minnesota in 1941 that left over 60 people dead, CBS canceling the “Ed Sullivan Show” in 1971, and the outbreak of SARS in 2003.

I low-key pride myself as someone well acquainted with trashy reality TV programs, and all of the books below share the same kind of angst-filled gossip, high stakes drama, soapy love triangles, and backstabbing political intrigue as Caesar's famous meeting of the Senate, and are ripe for a cliffhanging commercial break.

Your Own Worst Enemy book coverYour Own Worst Enemy by Gordon Jack

They say that with great power comes great responsibility. Unless you're student body president at Lincoln High School. Then you get all the responsibility but none of the power. And the three candidates running for president know all about that. Stacey Wynn is the front-runner, but she didn't count on Julia Romero entering this race. Julia is challenging Stacey for the title while also putting the moves on Stacey's campaign adviser and only friend, Brian. And then there is Tony Guo, the way outsider. Tony is usually oblivious to the school's political campaigning, as he's oblivious to anything that isn’t about getting high and drinking all the Space Cow chocolate milk he can stomach. But when his favorite beverage is banned at school, a freshman political “mastermind” convinces Tony to become the voice of the little guy. But what kind of voice is that, really? If this were an ordinary high school election, the winner would be whichever candidate was the most popular. But this year, each candidate may have to sink to a new low to win an election that could change the course of...very little.

I, Claudia book cover

I, Claudia by Mary McCoy

The last thing Claudia McCarthy wanted was power—that is, until she had some. After years of being teased for her limp and her speech impediment, Claudia enters her new high school, Imperial Day Academy, with only one goal in mind: to be as invisible as possible. That is, until her mortal enemy, the powerful Honor Council member Livia Drusus, orders her to run for Student Senate, thereby thrusting Claudia into the spotlight. Against all odds, Claudia wins her election and, after uncovering a financial scandal within the current Senate, becomes vice president. As Claudia becomes more and more powerful, she begins to question the motivations of everyone around her—including her own.

Little White Lies book coverLittle White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Sawyer Taft is used to hard work: at 18, she spends her time fixing cars, looking out for her less-than-reliable bartender mom, and verbally dressing down the guys who think a female mechanic is asking to be hit on. But then her estranged grandmother Lillian unexpectedly shows up and offers Sawyer a job of a different kind. If Sawyer agrees to enter society as a debutante, Lillian is prepared to offer her a six-figure trust, more than enough to comfortably fund college. If that’s not incentive enough, Sawyer’s mom has always been tight-lipped about Sawyer’s dad, but Sawyer knows he’s someone from her mom’s high-society days, and she’s hungry for clues. But the life of a debutante isn’t just fancy parties and pretty dresses, and Sawyer soon gets swept up in a mystery that involves her mom’s past and her own future, and it could be darker than she ever suspected.

Jack of Hearts and Other Parts book cover

Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen

Meet Jack Rothman. He's seventeen and loves partying, makeup and boys - sometimes all at the same time. His sex life makes him the hot topic for the high school gossip machine. But who cares? Like Jack always says, 'it could be worse'. He doesn't actually expect that to come true. But after Jack starts writing an online sex advice column, the mysterious love letters he's been getting take a turn for the creepy. Jack's secret admirer knows everything: where he's hanging out, who he's sleeping with, who his mum is dating. They claim they love Jack, but not his unashamedly queer lifestyle. They need him to curb his sexuality, or they'll force him. As the pressure mounts, Jack must unmask his stalker before their obsession becomes genuinely dangerous...

When We Caught Fire book cover

When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen

Once, Emmeline Carter was no one. When her father became suddenly wealthy, Emmeline entered Chicago’s high society and learned the ropes fast, employing her best friend, Fiona, as her maid. Now, Emmeline is engaged to a wealthy and incredibly eligible bachelor, and her future is bright. Fiona is nothing but happy for her; the engagement means that Emmeline will leave behind Anders, her childhood sweetheart and the boy whom Fiona herself loves. But on the eve of her wedding, Emmeline decides she must say goodbye to Anders—now a boxer with some dangerous enemies—in person, and her old feelings for him reignite. It’s 1871 in Chicago; firemen have been putting out small fires for days, everything is poised to burn, and the fallout from this volatile love triangle could decimate the city.

Hearts Unbroken book cover

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Louise Wolfe regrets dumping her first real boyfriend via email instead of face-to-face, but his offensive remarks about Native Americans crossed a line for this proud Muscogee (Creek) teen. As senior year begins, she's focused on helping her little brother, Hughie, adjust to high school life, and on earning her desired beat on the school newspaper. Competing against and falling for Joey, a new kid with a passion for photojournalism, is an added bonus. But when Hughie finds himself at the center of a divisive community conflict centered on the casting of the school production of the Wizard of Oz, Louise struggles to balance her responsibilities as a journalist with a desire to protect her family.

Further Reading

Gossip Girl book coverAngus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging book coverJust One Day book coverPretty Little Liars book coverThe Defiant book coverThe Truth About Alice book cover