Flo and Renée are back with their angst-filled, sex-preoccupied lives, full of cigarettes and drinking and drugs—only this time graduation looms, so they think about serious stuff, too.
With an updated list of teen issues—the generic bullying of Paper Airplanes (2014) is now homophobia; slut-shaming rears its ugly head—O'Porter returns to 1997 Guernsey. There are no soft blurry edges here, just more tragedy, pain, and misunderstandings as two best friends edge their ways toward adulthood. But there is genuine, edgy humor, too; Flo wonders, “Why did I have to pick a bigger virgin than me to be my first boyfriend?” and Renée leads a late-night raid on their old school that includes the good reminders of early friendship, the bad memories of traumas and loss, and the ugly (they witness adult sex), with some impromptu larceny thrown in. Both girls enter serious relationships, one with Jesus, the other in a less spiritual union; both contemplate the deeper meaning of life. Wise Aunt Jo returns; while looking for Mr. Right, she considers teen lives through the lens of midlife regrets in passages that will broaden the novel's appeal to adult readers. The pace is fast, the explorations of the redemptive powers of forgiveness and strong female friendship thorough, and the door is open for future installations.
Hard to say who will love this most: the women who lived the 1990s or their teen daughters. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)