In this debut novel, a whip-smart teen grapples with her out-of-touch mother, catty classmates, a proclivity for shoplifting, and first love.
As Samantha Stonesong enters her junior year in high school, her budding friendship with the pretty and popular Madison Caulfield gives her a shot at joining the Sherpas, a Mean Girls–esque clique led by Hillary Markham. Sam’s need for acceptance is understandable: her father cut off contact two years prior, and her mother is the kind of woman who sports zebra-print fake nails and would rather discuss her sexcapades than Sam’s college plans. But that all becomes less important when Sam falls for a charming but slightly odd boy named Zach. Given the book’s title, it is easy to guess the source of his peculiarity. However, Sam’s ignorance is plausible—after all, Zach is nothing like the suspenders-clad boy with missing teeth from whom he saves her at a cornfield party. Amusing dramatic irony ensues as Sam tries to reason away Zach’s lack of a driver’s license, unfamiliar vocabulary, and curious phone habits. Then, once he discloses his Amish upbringing, the pace quickens. Sam seeks relationship advice from Madison but inadvertently alienates her (“That makes me a prissy Saint Sam, and I guess you’re the wild slut”), and the Sherpas lash out accordingly. Meanwhile, a family emergency threatens to return Zach to the Amish fold. As everything comes crashing down, Sam devises the ultimate shoplifting challenge to regain some sense of control. Sam is blunt, self-aware, and prone to doubt and regret. Despite her insecurities, she has a firm sense of self as a movie buff, math nerd, vegetarian, and fashionista. Dodds leverages these traits well—for instance, the couple's conversations about horror films parallel the progression of their relationship, from surface-level “What’s your favorite movie?” talk to exchanges requiring deep trust. The author writes with specificity, and though a few instances of slang in this virtually all-white cast feel forced (one party is described as “off-the-hook-CRAZY”), the tale’s messages about remaining vulnerable, honest, and forgiving ring true.
A funny and engrossing romance.