High-schooler Evan blames himself for the breakdown of his close friend Ariel.
When a mysterious photographer strategically plants pictures of him and his missing best friend Ariel where he will find them, Evan starts to unravel with paranoia, guilt and grief. He enlists Jack, his close friend and Ariel’s former boyfriend, to help find out who’s sending the photographs and why they’re being stalked. Readers will immediately recognize Levithan’s familiar writing style, characterizations and themes: his cadences and wordplay, the complex connections between characters, the stream-of-conscious inner dialogues. What they won’t recognize is the messy, stilted, stop-and-go plotting characterized by Evan’s jumbled thoughts—some of which he decides he wants to express, while others are crossed out. While this conceit intensified Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls (2009), its far more extensive use here only succeeds in confounding readers. Much of the drama and mystery behind what’s happening to Evan and what he’s going through is extinguished in a cloud of word repetition and jumbled back-and-forths between the present and the past. Farmer’s photos are appropriately haunting and help move things along, but a simplistic and unsatisfying conclusion will have readers wondering why they went through it all in the first place.
A sadly disjointed attempt at a thriller by a celebrated romantic. (Thriller. 14 & up)