The intriguing plot points and themes on offer here could easily power several novels; frustratingly, none is fully developed.
Olive Corbett, the mentally fragile, unreliable narrator, dresses bizarrely and mutters to herself. A social outcast at her Australian high school, she takes refuge in the music of an indie band, Luxe, to drown out feelings of guilt for her father’s departure and her brother’s nightmares. The arrival of new student Miranda Vaile, rumored to have killed her parents, is a welcome distraction. Lackluster Miranda is inexplicably taken up by Olive’s former best friend and A-list queen bee, Katie, whom Miranda dominates, then eclipses. Meanwhile, despite her issues, Olive’s pursued by hunky Lachlan Ford, who ignores behavior that would give most boys pause. Following a plot twist that won’t surprise alert readers, the school setting all but disappears as Miranda pursues an obsessive friendship with Olive. The untidy plot leaves a plethora of loose ends. Did Olive take refuge in mental illness to escape her popular-girl persona and make a fresh start? Why does Miranda choose Olive? Is Miranda a parasitical shapeshifter? (The prospect of celebrity shapeshifters who use their status to stoke jealousy and draw power from sycophantic, wannabe victims presents rich possibilities that remain largely unexplored.)
If the pacing is too leisurely for suspense, sheer inventiveness should keep readers turning pages in this debut for teens that serves up half a delicious meal. (Paranormal suspense. 12 & up)