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by Beth Neff

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-670-01255-8
Publisher: Viking

Four girls facing time behind bars choose to spend their incarceration on an experimental group farm in the middle of nowhere.

Each of the four girls arrives at the home with her own story, prejudices and hurts. Jenna, the observer, attempts to figure out her new housemates, like a puzzle she is trying to solve. Cassie, who would prefer to fade into the background, hides a desperate secret. Sarah, the street-wise cynic, wants to believe that this is not just a dumping ground for lost causes. Lauren, defiant and angry, wants nothing more than to go home even if it means taking down the whole program with her. The trio of directors, while well-meaning, has their own secrets. With narration that is filtered through the perspectives of each of the four girls, Neff’s debut seeks to untangle the broken lives of all seven of the inhabitants of the farmhouse. The potentially meaningful story is hamstrung by vague characters, a meandering plot and purple prose. Cassie is angry "[a]t the dark that won't swallow her up as it once did, that, instead, spits her out night after night onto the ground, shivering with the truth. What to do with it?" Attempts at true revelation are drowned by familiar tropes and forced drama.

A story that fades before it can ever find its stride. (Fiction. 12 & up)