Sometimes mean girls have a reason.
White girl Ellie Sokoloff was diagnosed with claustrophobia when she was 7, shortly after her family moved from California to New York nearly a decade before. Countless therapists over the years haven’t been able to cure her of this debilitating illness, leaving Ellie to try her own cure. She leaves the confines of congested Manhattan and returns to the open spaces of California. When she arrives at the prestigious Ventana Ranch boarding school in Big Sur, she discovers that her childhood best friend, Eliza Hart, is a student. Popular, Barbie doll–perfect white girl Eliza spreads vicious lies about Ellie; soon, the entire student body hates her. When Eliza is found dead, having fallen from a cliff, almost everyone assumes Ellie killed her. Jewish Ellie’s biracial (African-American and white) suitemate, Sam, helps her work to clear her name. As she uncovers devastating secrets about Eliza’s life, she discovers the childhood roots of her own illness and of Eliza’s hatred of her and that her seemingly perfect former friend’s inner life was far from ideal. The narrative alternates between Ellie and Eliza; the latter girl tells her story from her place after death. While the characters reinforce the stigmas of mental illness, the text dispels those problematic myths about depression, bipolar disorder, and phobias.
A public-service announcement about mental illness wrapped up as a compelling mystery that will keep readers going until the hopeful conclusion. (Fiction. 12-16)