Jason Wilder can’t help but be intrigued when he is joined one day in in-school suspension by the mysterious and charismatic new girl, Melissa Young. But that’s not her real name.
With her Chinese features, British accent, and edgy attitude, Meili Wen (Melissa’s actual name) is a sore thumb at Unionville High. Jason (assumed to be as white as everyone else in town), suspended and on probation for starting a fire, has hit rock bottom: His alcoholic mom has moved to Florida, he’s living alone, he probably won’t graduate in June, and he’s being bullied by a bunch of boys from school. Hanging out with Meili becomes his only escape. After a run-in with the police, Meili goes into hiding—at Jason’s house—and her past begins to be revealed. Little by little, it becomes clear that no one’s story is truly reliable. What begins as a psychological thriller takes a turn into star-crossed romance and then descends into a portrait of mental illness. The psychological drama comes to a not-quite-satisfying close with some lingering questions, but sadly, it may be the repeated images of graphic violence that will leave the greatest impression on readers after the book is closed.
Equal parts thriller, mystery, romance, and problem novel, Wilder grabs the reader from the start but ultimately fails to create a meaningfully cohesive story. (Fiction. 14-18)