Debut author Lo explores the life cycle of a friendship, with alternating narratives that reveal how all stories have two sides.
Jessie suffers from “terminal loneliness” and lives where “the light from popular would take a million years” to reach. She enters grade 10 hoping for invisibility; she’ll take her daily Prozac and endure her suburban Ontario high school. When she’s suddenly befriended by new kid Annie (seemingly fearless in the face of small-minded high school drama), anxiety-plagued Jessie feels her world expand and brighten. The two white girls form an opposites-attract bond: Annie (who’s lost her mother and struggles with her stepmom) envies Jessie’s intact home and academic abilities; timid Jessie admires Annie’s bold style and approach to life. Trouble in paradise arrives (somewhat predictably) when both fall for the same boy, but romance is refreshingly peripheral to Lo’s main subject: the complexity of close female friendship. Lo (who’s worked with at-risk teens) offers a nuanced exploration of stressors on this vulnerable population: the effect of social media, well-meaning parents with complicated agendas, and peer influence. She tackles—without condescending or simplifying—challenging subjects such as drug dependency and the consequences of sexual activity, offering an unflinching look at the emotional toll of abortion.
A thoughtful depiction of teen friendship and the competing costs of concealing—and revealing—the truth. (Fiction. 14-18)