In Jahn’s (Beyond the Sanctified, 2017, etc.) latest, a teenage farm girl’s move to the East Coast teaches her about friendship, diversity, love, and herself.
Tess is deeply attached to her Iowa life, particularly her best friend, Zander, the family farm, and their cows. Finances force a difficult decision to sell the farm; her dad is re-enlisting in the Army to help in Syria. Tess is anxious about moving to North Carolina and starting over socially; even in her small Iowa school, she’s found it difficult to connect with people. The sheer size of her new high school is overwhelming, but Leonetta, a black girl assigned to help Tess (who is white) find her way around, quickly befriends her. Their bond grows to include Summer, who is white, and Alice, who is black. Being part of a group of supportive, caring friends is a new and wonderful experience for Tess. Tess is shocked and dismayed to witness the injustices her black friends face on a regular basis, and there are moments when she makes insensitive and uninformed remarks. These potentially impactful scenes—it seems Tess experiences a revelation every day—are ruined by explicit analysis, melodrama, lack of tension, or predictability. As the characters lack depth, major plot revelations fall flat as well.
Packed with overexplained life lessons, this book is an earnest attempt to do too much. (Fiction. 14-17)