“Haden, you’re gay,” I inform him as if he doesn’t already know this.
This will (hopefully) be a short review. Mainly because it's been a while since I read the book and want to get this review over with, but also because there's only a few things I have to say about it. First up, Finding Laila is about Laila and her four best (male) friends, and their last year in high school. That's where the plot begins and ends.
There's not much to say about the main character, Laila. She's your typical snowflake YA heroine.
“Yeah, you’re a girl. But you aren’t like other girls.”
"You’re intimidating as hell! You do realize you’re pretty much the perfect girl, right?”
"While all the other girls around are clawing and beating each other to be noticed, you are happy to stay in the background away from the spotlight—unseen."
Laila is being bullied (more or less) for the fact that her four best friends are all male, so of course the other girls are jealous and calls her a slut. Which is not okay, slutshaming is never okay. Perhaps this fact would've made it possible to feel some sympathy for Laila, but that feeling is quickly reduced by Laila's obnoxious, dramatic, and rude behavior. On top of it all, she has no respect for authorities (okay, she has almost no respect for anyone that isn't her four best friends - even her family doesn't get much respect). Laila was such an annoying character, and she had the ability to make everything about her and blowing literally everything out of proportions.
Laila more or less would've ruined this book all on her own, but as it is, I had a few more things that bothered me. First off is the fact that everything we learn about these characters, we are told. For example, one of Laila's best friends are supposedly "brooding". Fun thing, he never once acts this way. So yes, everything we learn is told, never shown, and this is a big problem when it comes to my next issue: Laila's best friends never came off the paper as actual people, instead they appear to be there to fill a quota. We have the (supposedly, as mentioned) brooding artist. Then we have the carefree, smart friend that Laila talks to more than the rest. Then we have the guy who's girl crazy. Last but not least we have, and this one bothered me most, the popular jock with girls chasing him, but he's actually gay.
I'll talk a little about the last character because his sexual orientation isn't brought up until the middle of the book. First of all, because of all the telling, no showing, he doesn't get to be a rounded character (this is an issue for all the characters, of course). In fact, he falls into the background with a few lines here and there. Then his sexual orientation is brought up, and suddenly he is important again. This is troublesome, because while it's great authors are including minorities these days, but when they're doing it to simply "fill a quota", it is not genuine, it is not representation.Most of all, it seems that his sexual orientation is what makes him interesting, or that this fact is what his identity is all about. And yes, your sexual identity is a part of your identity, but it isn't the only defining you. The way the book is written (all telling, no showing) then seems to focus more on his particular sexual orientation, rather than his persona.
Basically, it all comes down to the fact that there is no showing, only telling. Emotional connection to the characters are nearly impossible when there's nothing backing up the statements about their personalities (or in some cases, direct contradictions). Without rounded characters the lack of solid plot is evident; had there been more complex characters with interesting arcs, it could've been better.