Road-tripping Leila acts as agent of change for four different teens.
Hudson tunes up her car in Vicksburg, sparking an immediate romantic connection that leads to one great night and then a disaster. Bree, estranged from her older sister since their parents’ deaths, is on a road trip of her own, encountering Leila in Kansas, where the two flirt with the law. Elliot is deeply in love with Maribel, but after she rejects his romantic advances, he flees the prom and, drunk, is clipped by Leila’s car in Minneapolis, launching a farcical attempt at recovery. Sonia, caught between her love for her deceased boyfriend and a new romantic interest, ends up in Washington state on the wrong side of the border without her passport, where she’s rescued by Leila. The final section is Leila’s own as readers discover her tragic back story and motivation for the road trip. Her frenetic adventures with the other teens are told from their respective third-person points of view, maintaining her air of mystery and emphasizing her role as catalyst. Characters are portrayed attractively and with a colorful authenticity, although the plot necessarily strains at times to accommodate the structural conceit. Within each story, the end is fairly predictable, but as with all road trips, the point is how they get there.
An entertaining and romantic road-trip debut. (Fiction. 13-18)