Quirky mystery writer LaPlante (Circle of Wives, 2014, etc.) switches things up in her latest tale, a spin on teen dystopian fiction with a decidedly grown-up kick.
Teenage Anna, the only child of cheerful iconoclasts (mom tunes grand pianos for a living, while dad maps earthquakes), is spiraling into a deep funk, unable to blend in with her Silicon Valley peers or, lately, lift limbs out of bed. Except at rare moments—with her worried parents; her mean but interesting chemistry teacher, Ms. Thadeous; and her former protector from childhood, Jim (college football star, now living in exile in his parents’ rec room)—she feels “as receptive to human interaction as a slab of meat." The therapist she’s dragged to prescribes meds but frames Anna’s outsider mentality as “a simple misalignment with her herd” and urges her to “Hunt with the pack….Even if it’s just an act at first.” Anna’s mood grows still bleaker, until she meets Lars, the geeky but oddly cocky son of the new family next door. An instant outcast at school, Lars is unfazed by taunts and furtive pummeling. When he spills his secret to Anna—that he and his family are working to expedite certain Biblical prophecies—he really gets her attention. “We could use you,” he tells her. That she doesn’t scoff at this invitation is a given—and it’s not all new-moon madness. As she tells her USGS–tracking dad, “You yourself say we don’t have much longer on this planet….Might we not be talking about the same things in different ways?” She doesn’t share that she’s signed up to join other true believers at a remote ranch. Her journey there will settle the question once and for all but not before she endures a seismic event close to home.
With a satirist’s eye and fleet, insightful prose, LaPlante delivers gratifying if somewhat foreseeable twists in one girl’s search for salvation.