Two teenagers with disparate outlooks on life form a friendship that shakes up their lives as the world shakes up around them.
In economically depressed, rural Fog Harbor County, Washington, two high schools whose rivalry is said to go back as far as the early 1900s merge, much to the displeasure of both communities. But Billy Sloat, who is white and a loner at his own school, is excited for some changes that might finally put the Rome vs. Carthage rivalry to rest. Lydia Lemon, a half-Filipina, half-white student from Carthage, does not even like the people from her own town, so her views on the merger are dim. Though Billy’s eternal hopefulness clashes with Lydia’s darker outlook on life, they discover a unique kinship. Both have experienced parental loss and live in difficult circumstances—Billy lives with his ill-tempered grandmother and Lydia, in the apartment behind the bar her father runs—and over time, they open up and share intimate secrets with each other. As their lives come together, the outside world seems to fall apart, evidenced by an unlikely tornado and a fog that swallows up the town. Billy’s maltreatment by those he loves becomes exhausting, as does his unshakeable “happiness is gratitude” mentality amid all the chaos and negativity. But lessons in forgiveness, self-love, and embracing vulnerability redeem this seemingly apocalyptic story.
Surreal, bizarre, yet ultimately comforting. (Fiction. 13-18)