“Heads or tails” might seem like an innocent question. But for Essie Tomasi, it's a matter of life and death.
Identical twin geniuses Essie and Aggie are two sides of a coin. Aggie is preppy; Essie likes rocker girl bands and combat boots. Aggie is cheerful and open; Essie keeps her cards close to her chest, quite literally, as she’s struggling to hide a gambling addiction that's growing more destructive by the day. The increasingly severe repercussions of her addiction form the bulk of this story's action. The gambling scenes show Carter in top form, drawing the reader into Essie's lows and highs as she reads the room, stashes cards, and places bets. The adrenaline is almost palpable, and Essie’s first-person narration is redolent of teen sardonicism and desperation. When Essie gets dragged in too deep, finding herself weighing a debt she can't pay against her own moral integrity, the stakes feel appropriately dire. The surrounding plots, including Essie's burgeoning relationship with skater Dillon, her faltering relationship with her sister, and the pain of coming clean to her family, feel less developed. Carter leans unapologetically into teen-novel tropes, leaving the supporting characters feeling somewhat less than three-dimensional. That said, Essie's supportive family members prove to be the true heroes of the story, as they go to extraordinary lengths to help her. The story moves along at a thrilling clip, sure to maintain readers' attention.
A royal flush of a read for reluctant readers.(Thriller. 12-18)