An unlikely friendship blossoms between two high school seniors, each of whom has family secrets but who together find unexpected solace in a fantasy world they create through texting.
Sam Jones keeps to herself, focusing on studying, painting, and gaming with her one friend. She wants to leave Portland, Oregon, to study aerospace engineering but is worried about how her divorced mother will survive without her. Zoe Miller is popular and has a serious boyfriend, a raft of friends, deep involvement in school theater—and a severely disabled brother. A chance encounter between the girls sparks an initially goofy text exchange that quickly turns into a lifeline for both. While this plot might not sound extraordinary, in the deft hands of co-authors Coulthurst (Inkmistress, 2018, etc.) and Garner (Relative Strangers, 2018, etc.), the well-realized main characters and deeply insightful descriptions of complex emotions combine into an unusually thoughtful novel. All characters appear to be white. Secondary characters, such as parents and friends, are less three-dimensional than Sam and Zoe. The fantasy texting subplot is clever: Seamlessly woven in as dialogue, it is not gimmicky. Alternating chapters in each girl’s first-person voice reveal their perspectives.
Readers seeking characters facing challenges with honesty, bravery, and kindness will appreciate this book with its reminder that our outward lives often don’t reflect who we really are. (resources) (Fiction. 14-18)