Avery and Nora were best friends, drawn together by the fact that they were both adopted. After Nora dies, Avery feels partially responsible.
The girls grew apart as Avery became a cheerleader and acquired a shell of popularity, willingly accepting superficiality in herself and her friends for appearances’ sake. Nora, a true individual who’s briefly though sympathetically sketched, had begun a challenging senior project, aided by her gently supportive friend, Brody: to locate her birth mother. The painful outcome of her search turns out to be too much of an emotional burden; right after passing on a journal of the quest to Avery—along with obvious clues to her desperate emotional state that Avery ignores—Nora kills herself. Avery, focused on how it might positively affect her application to Duke University, decides she’ll honor Nora’s memory by searching for her own birth mother. Avery has her eye on the bottom line, and she facilely, fluently lies to people around her if it advances her cause. This ultimately undermines her climactic revelation of the error of her ways. More effective is her wry, often sarcastic voice, which is sometimes hilarious, as when she describes her boyfriend’s bumbling sexual advances: “[I]t felt like he was trying to start a fire Boy Scout style.”
An insightful, entertaining exploration of the impact of a suicide that may leave its audience uncertain about the sincerity of the protagonist. (Fiction. 14-18)