Off the Record brilliantly shows the power of fighting through your fear

Off The Record by Camryn Garrett. Image courtesy Penguin Random House
Off The Record by Camryn Garrett. Image courtesy Penguin Random House /

Camryn Garrett’s Off the Record tells the story of Josie Wright, a Black teenage girl looking to make it big as a writer. She soon gets her chance when she wins the opportunity to write a celebrity profile of a new up-and-coming actor, Marius Canet.

So, off she goes, with her sister Alice in tow, on a nationwide tour to interview Marius and the co-stars of his new buzzworthy film. Josie is nervous but she fights through her nerves and asks questions no one else is asking.

But then she learns of a story from Marius’s co-star, Penny Livingstone. It’s about Roy Lennox, a famous, well-known director, and how he treats women on his sets. And it turns out Penny is not the only one with a story about Lennox. He has hurt a lot of women.

Once Josie hears the story, it’s all she can think about. But should she write about what Penny told her? Is she the right person to tell the story? What about the after-effects once the story is out?

Off the Record gives us a captivating story of women fighting for each other

While Josie is ANXIOUS, she continues to collect stories from women hurt by Lennox while she interviews Marius.

Luckily, Marius is a bright spot in her day. He’s charming and wonderful and she should not be feeling the things she does about him. Especially when she’s supposed to write a profile about him.

But the two stories ultimately collide when Josie discovers Marius is working with Roy Lennox on his next film.

It all comes to a head when Josie confronts Marius about working with Lennox. No spoilers but let’s just say…things are not what they seem.

The book ends with Josie publishing her profile on Marius as well as the story about the women Lennox sexually assaulted.

Ok, let’s talk!

This. Book. I cry reading just about every book and Off the Record was no exception. I cried when each woman told their story, I sobbed when Josie shared her story (no spoilers!), and I cried tears of happiness when Josie published the story and it blows up.

There are so many points in this book that were executed perfectly. Josie’s complicated relationship with her sister, Alice, strikes just the right balance between sisterly bickering and support. Josie’s friendship with Penny was unexpected but turns into the strongest friendship in the book.

And then there’s Marius. Josie and Marius could not be cuter but they also challenge each other. They challenge how they view themselves and each other. And their final moment together is just (no spoilers) absolute perfection. A cuteness overload on the red carpet! And there’s a gorgeous dress involved.

The stories of sexual assault are also handled very well. Nothing is too graphic (or at least wasn’t for me). That being said, I do want to give trigger warnings for sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Additionally, the way Josie listens and searches for these stories is done carefully and deliberately. She doesn’t want to harm these women in the process of telling their stories.

She also makes it her mission to find at least one story from a woman of color because she knows, as a Black girl herself, that their stories are so often left out of these narratives.

While there are so many takeaways from Off the Record about powerful men, the strength of voices joining together and speaking out, and the magic of a dress that fits just right, the biggest takeaway for me is how Josie does something big even when she’s scared.

Josie is anxious throughout the book and that doesn’t just magically go away by the end, but she doesn’t let it stop her from doing what she knows is right. That’s a very powerful message.

While Off the Record clearly takes moments from semi-recent news stories, it’s a book that could easily become a classic. There are always powerful people who need to be held accountable and there are always people looking to bring hidden stories into the light.

If you’re a fan of contemporary young adult books, you NEED to read Off the Record. It’s relevant to the world we live in, but also…it’s simply a very well-written story.

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Off the Record is currently available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats. Go get it!