A teenage girl finds herself by playing other characters in this debut YA novel.
After yet another move in her parents’ hectic life, Hannah Fields is nervous at first about starting at a new high school in the small East Coast town of Preston. But she quickly secures her place there by becoming best friends with the town troublemaker, Katie Pauley. The two bond over their illicit addictions—sex for Katie, alcohol for Hannah—and their love of intimidating teachers and students alike in the classroom. But when Hannah’s disinterest in her studies lands her in summer school, she meets one teacher who refuses to be scared away. Lincoln Dollar is just beginning his career as a high school English teacher, but his previous career was long and colorful. He deals with a hooked prosthetic in place of a hand, and a lot of bad memories from the military, but his heart belongs to the theater. When Preston Valley Union High School adds a drama program, making Lincoln the head of it, Hannah realizes she adores the theater, despite frequent battles with stage fright. She also discovers a love for Lincoln. The two begin an ill-advised but passionate romance that will shape Hannah’s life for years to come. Beauregard’s story unfolds in a series of acts, rather than chapters, which are in turn made of vivid scenes strung together by exposition and flashbacks. The characters are well-rounded, though Hannah suffers from the same ills as many a teenage protagonist—she is shallow, selfish, and unlikable. While she evolves over the course of the book as she grows in maturity, the changes may happen too late for less patient readers. A teacher-student relationship—with the attendant age gap and ethical questions—may also be an uncomfortable development for some. Others may simply enjoy the light literary narration, with such sentences as “Silence, like Seattle fog, had settled in Lauren’s den.”
A performance starring a complex heroine that’s not quite worthy of an encore, but good enough to see through to the end.