An accidental meeting leads to romance for two anxious teens; sharing secrets, they discover each is being stalked.
Rev wears hoodies to cover scars left by his abusive father a decade earlier; successful adoption hasn’t healed Rev’s invisible scars, either. When Rev turns 18, his father initiates contact. His increasingly ominous emails reawaken Rev’s nightmarish memories. Meanwhile, Emma’s proud of the computer game she designed, an escape from her parents’ foundering marriage. When a player/troll intrudes with obscene, threatening messages, she turns to a friendly player, who offers help. She mends a frayed friendship too, but her parents’ marriage proves unfixable. The teens’ connection is a balm for Rev and Emma, even as each inflicts unintended pain. The troubled teen Rev’s parents take in as a short-term foster placement brings horrific baggage, adding to Rev’s stress. Rev and Emma fear growing into their parents. Could Rev become his violent father? Might Emma morph into her cold, sniping mother? Family dysfunction, anxiety, and PTSD from long-term abuse are all believably conveyed. Frustratingly, in contrast to the well-crafted white characters (Rev, Emma, and most others), Rev’s black, adoptive parents are “magical Negroes.” Saintly, loving, infertile middle-class professionals, they’re generic, place-holder avatars. Unlike Emma’s vivid, problematic parents, Rev’s lack individual traits or lives separate from their adjunct role, and the narrative is largely oblivious to race.
A timely, suspenseful, well-written page-turner with compelling main characters and one notable flaw. (Fiction. 13-17)