Known for powerful tales of social injustice in the developing world, Ellis here offers readers a flawed but gripping character study of teens in small-town Canada.
Recognized as the best friend of Casey White, a girl who was tried for murder in a sensational case, waitress and narrator Jess decides to tell her story. As counselors at a summer camp, Jess and Casey supervised young campers, including troubled and troublesome Stephanie Glass. Casey was arrested after Stephanie was murdered and her favorite T-shirt turned up, bloodstained, in Casey’s duffle. Interwoven with Jess’s account are flashbacks to their long friendship. These recollections work against the framing narrative device, in which Jess addresses a putative customer. Jess, an outcast, longs to be someone’s best friend; her attraction to Casey makes sense. But what does Casey see in Jess? Casey has no interest in peer acceptance. With a lifelong passion for insects, she plans to become an entomologist. Aimless, lazy Jess has no ambition beyond securing Casey’s undivided attention and loyalty—that is, until Casey’s arrest gives her entrée to the popular crowd.
Casey, whose misplaced loyalty indicates startling ignorance of her friend’s character, is a bore. Jess—sharply insightful, but selfish and entirely lacking in empathy—may be a piece of work, but she grabs readers’ attention and never lets it go. (Fiction. 12 & up)