In Hackensack, New Jersey, a teen grieving the death of his father flees home, urn containing his dad's ashes in hand, and stumbles upon the best friends of his life.
Sixteen-year-old Vic Bennuci's late father left him with an appreciation for asymmetry, which both informs his love of abstract art and helps him cope with the often cruel ways the world reacts to his face: the white boy has Moebius syndrome and can't smile or blink. Readers are introduced to him and this gripping novel's other narrator—quiet, tough, blonde, white Mad, a lover of S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, whose home life is a nightmare of abuse—as they're being separately interviewed by the police about their friend Baz, who is accused of murder. Baz and his brother, Nzuzi, are Congolese refugees who lived in foster care in the United States following the deaths of the rest of their family, and they, along with foulmouthed white, 11-year-old Coco, round out this intelligent and funny group. Vic and Mad are beautifully realized characters. The others are not as fully developed but are deeply sympathetic nonetheless. Their coalescence into an informal found family is both natural and believable. This tale of kids dealing with horrific situations is at times almost fantastical in its romanticism and is realized through the employ of spot-on pacing and lovely wordsmithing.
Sophisticated teen readers will love this. (Fiction. 14-18)