In this debut YA novel, a troubled teenager struggles to fit in with the popular crowd, putting her well-being in danger.
Wren Newmann, 16, is painfully self-conscious, especially about her body, which she considers enormous at size 12. She also feels abandoned and lonely staying at her Granny’s farmhouse while her parents are divorcing. On the positive side, she sees more of Jay Dressler, the boy she’s had an impossible crush on for three years, because he does chores around the vineyard. Self-confident, good-looking, and always at the center of a crowd, Jay thrills Wren with attention and flirting, making her even more anxious and weight-conscious. She determines to slim down by purging and ignores some red flags, like Jay’s rudeness to Panayis, a Greek boy who also works at the vineyard. Panayis is attractive and likes Wren, but she has eyes only for Jay. Although she loves books and Jay is more a Future Farmer of America type, Wren tries her best to become the skinny, fashionably dressed, party-going girl he usually dates. In the process, she loses her best friend and becomes dangerously undernourished. After Jay pressures her into unwanted sex, Wren must confront uncomfortable truths, repair her friendships and health, and start the journey toward self-acceptance. In her book, Maroulis skillfully captures the voice and sensibility of a socially anxious teenage girl. Wren is wryly amusing about her problems, as when she imagines Jay thinking: “The awkward is strong in this one.” Her weight obsession can seem overdone (sitting on a bench, she’ll lift her heels to avoid thigh spread), but she’s a reflection of today’s constant barrage of be-thin propaganda. The author handles the date rape episode with sensitivity. Jay takes advantage of Wren’s inexperience, confusion, and soft-spoken, single “no” but genuinely doesn’t think he’s committed rape. Wren’s supporters, though, emphasize that even a single no is enough—an important message for the novel’s audience. Wisely, Wren’s purging isn’t overdescribed, which helps avoid triggering readers with similar problems.
A high school tale that handles familiar issues in YA literature with sensitivity and humor.