In Legend’s debut novel, the first of a series, a high school student struggles to cope with her troubled family life as her budding friendship with a handsome transfer student grows more serious.
Dannie Lee is a bookish high school senior whose cheerful demeanor and empathetic nature mask the strain she feels living with her abusive stepfather and emotionally stunted mother. Still reeling from a recent split with her loutish ex-boyfriend, Jett, she throws herself into the school year, determined to steer clear of romantic entanglements and focus on getting into college. Despite Jett’s attempts to spread nasty rumors about her, Dannie hesitantly develops a friendship with Reed, who recently relocated from Kansas and is struggling with a bit of culture shock as he adjusts to life in Northern California. Although Reed is clearly besotted with her from the outset, their closeness develops slowly as Dannie gradually begins to trust him and open up about her past. Reinvigorated by a renewed relationship with her father, Dannie becomes more open to the possibility of a romance with Reed, but another young man’s secret obsession with her threatens her journey toward happiness. It initially seems that this book will present yet another high school love triangle, but the plot surprises and unsettles those expectations. It moves past lighthearted teen drama to present a serious, emotionally affecting coming-of-age tale, strengthened by its protagonist’s subtle development. The novel takes on the issue of abuse in a plainspoken manner, which heightens the overall impact and strengthens readers’ attachment to Dannie; however, certain passages may also be triggering to some. Although this is the first novel in a series, it succeeds as a self-contained story about figuring out how to love while negotiating emotional barriers. Even so, many readers will find themselves curious to know what happens next.
An engaging contemporary romance, whose conflicted, nuanced heroine helps it transcend the conventions of its genre.