In a mostly well-executed problem novel, a Canadian teen becomes romantically involved with a dangerous boy.
Mel has a long-standing crush on her friend Dustin, but although the two of them almost dated a year earlier, Dustin has a new girlfriend. When Mel meets new kid Colter Wagner in the principal’s office after she and Dustin witness a fight, she is excited to have a new boy in her life. As Mel and Colter become involved, however, the relationship changes subtly and gradually. Readers may pick up on warning signs—Colter wants to spend lots of time away from Mel’s friends; he buys her an unsettlingly extravagant ring—but the storytelling makes it clear how Mel misses the signs or waves away her doubts. Even when Colter confesses he was responsible for a car accident that killed his previous girlfriend and asks pitifully and manipulatively if Mel will leave him now that she knows, it is easy, if upsetting, to understand her response: “After everything he’s been through, how could I walk away?” Some of the exposition is clunky, especially as Mel is introducing herself to readers, but the central storyline is compelling and builds to a harrowing yet hopeful resolution.
A believable and largely unsensationalized look into an abusive dating relationship. (Fiction. 12-16)