Two ostracized teens forge a relationship in this dual narrative that delves deeply into family dynamics.
Rob’s a former golden boy whose father sustained a profound brain injury when he almost died by suicide after he was turned in for illegal activity with his investors’ money. Rob is wracked by guilt that his father’s clients, many of whom are his peers’ families, lost everything. Maegan is the dutiful and caring daughter of a police officer who struggles in the shadow of her lacrosse-star older sister, who is home from college unexpectedly pregnant. Maegan is still living down having cheated on the SAT a year earlier, causing the scores of everyone in the room to be invalidated. When the two are thrown together for a school assignment, they slowly become confidants and chip away at one another’s defenses—and their burgeoning attraction causes fallout of its own. A lot is tackled in this romantic realistic fiction novel with forays into thriller territory toward its end, but the story is well-grounded with funny dialogue and complex characters who grow believably as they wrestle with questions about ethical responsibility and grief and begin to trust one another. Rob and Maegan are white, there is some ethnic diversity in secondary characters (and a brief discussion about racism and white privilege that emerges naturally) as well as two secondary characters who are gay.
Gripping, heartfelt, and layered. (Fiction. 14-18)