Six years after Sophie’s mother cheats on her father, a Marine, Sophie does the very same thing and becomes a pariah.
Sweethaven, N.C., is just west of Camp Lejeune, and it is a Marine Corps town through and through. An injury to one is an injury to all, so when a half-naked Sophie is photographed wrapped around a boy who is not her boyfriend just days before he is deployed to Afghanistan, she becomes “slut” to everyone, including her father. As Sophie reflects of her boyfriend, “He might as well have a PROPERTY OF SWEETHAVEN label stamped on his ass.” Her only solace is the time she spends at the VA hospital with George, a crusty soldier-turned–war photographer whom she is helping with an oral-history project. What she won’t—can’t—say is that not only was she not cheating on Carey, she is suffering all this to protect him. Sophie’s blunt, perceptive present-tense narration takes readers effectively into her personal emotional maelstrom. Relationships and their dynamics play themselves out naturally and with satisfying complexity; readers see all too clearly the damage done in the name of love. If Sophie’s friendship with George feels familiar, readers won’t begrudge her the only human who shows her warmth.
Set in the waning days of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” this portrait of a military town rings true. (Fiction. 14 & up)