Murder, sexual torture, and other dark crimes among teens.
Clara Porterfield’s childhood crush, Griffin Tomlin, is dead. He was struck in the head with a rock before falling into a pool and drowning. Now her sister, Emily, is in jail awaiting trial for the murder. The town is shocked by the crime since Emily had been a well-liked cheerleader, seemingly normal and responsible. But Clara is keeping an awful secret—that she was viciously raped and assaulted by Griffin on the night of a Super Bowl party. Clara’s struggle to cope with her emotional and physical injuries are further complicated by a developing romance with Griffin’s grieving best friend and her friendship with Aniston, a writer for her school newspaper who’s asking too many questions. The author’s note acknowledges that the book can be triggering and suggests that it is, in part, about topics “as real as young adults struggling with the aftermath of their sexual assaults.” The elements to do with the trauma of surviving a brutal rape are handled well, and readers will ache for Clara. However, as a thriller, the writing is perfunctory, and the melodramatically unrealistic plot twists that include explicit, mature content involving mutilation of animal and human corpses, sodomy with a beer bottle, and more undermine the efforts toward authentic victim exploration and instead devolve into violently pulpy fiction. Most characters are assumed white; Aniston is Mexican American.
Graphic and disturbing elements are ultimately unredeemed. (author’s note) (Thriller. 17-adult)