Teen Renée is the class clown, while Flo is totally under the control of the school queen bee; an impulsive act of drunken kindness draws them together.
Inspired by her personal diaries from the mid-1990s, O’Porter skillfully weaves a nostalgic and affecting tale of adolescent life before cellphones and texting, when paper airplanes and tossed wads of paper carried secret messages among students. Alternating first-person accounts from Flo (“God knows what people must think of me—some nervous, quiet drip with no opinion”) and Renée (“The trick for me is to live on the edge and never tip over”) span a single, intense year at their private Guernsey school. American readers will find the occasional Briticism more entertaining than puzzling, and the contrasting, humorous and sometimes-desperate voices of these teens capture the essence of a certain time of girlhood when social status is everything. With its candid portrayal of risky behavior and troubled home lives, the story chronicles the contrasting cruelty and caring of teens. The pathos of drunken sex, menstruation mishaps and betrayal rings achingly true; important adults are sadly absent or not much help—but ultimately, there’s confirmation of the power of forgiveness when everyone is doing the best they can, even when their best really isn’t very good.
Poignant and edgy, this exploration of lively female friendships rises high. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)