After years of moving from place to place with her overprotective dad, Emma Lazar is thrilled that her dad’s latest job brings the two of them to Los Angeles.
When vicious mean girl Chelsea Hay insults Emma at her new swanky private day school, the equally sharp-tongued Siobhan Lynch stands up for Emma. Thus begins a friendship that is both compelling and harrowing. Siobhan is a master manipulator, and her charm, persistence and denials of wrongdoing lead Emma to forgive and forget ever-crueler behavior and actions. Siobhan wants the pair of them to go to Afterparty, a notorious yearly party that “beyond defies description.” To get sheltered Emma ready, she proposes a list of activities, mostly involving substance use and hookups with boys. The book begins with a sensational scene from its climax and the intimation that Emma will kill her best friend, but the story is much more character-driven than the opening suggests. At the center are Emma’s relationships: navigating her father’s rules and his disappointment when she breaks them, crushing on and getting close to dreamy Dylan Kahane, debriefing with her even-more-sheltered friend Megan, and being drawn into Siobhan’s increasingly reckless agenda.
Aside from a few avoidable misunderstandings between Emma and Dylan, this is a gripping and sometimes downright scary look at friendship and manipulation. (Fiction. 14 & up)