Lonely, angry and acting out, Lida is sent by her father and stepmother to a school for problem girls in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area.
Trying to keep a low profile, Lida becomes an observer. While the girls are there for different reasons, cabinmate Boone is more frighteningly tough than most. Lida gradually engages with the wilderness and both Boone and Gia, a charismatic new girl, for whom her attraction is romantic but not sexual. When Boone takes Lida hiking to a nearby fire lookout to meet Ben, a friendly supplier of booze, Lida knows she has gained Boone’s trust—but Gia’s intrusion and manipulations roil the plot. It all explodes on a solo overnight camping trip, and the choices each girl makes set up a violent confrontation, hinted at in the short “Epilogue” sections that are interspersed in italic type. Not everyone is distinct; the "I-bankers," or daughters of wealthy investment bankers, are particularly interchangeable. But teen and adult characters that matter are complex and intriguing. Saldin keeps readers intrigued by both withholding information and sharing Lida's retrospective thoughts without ever seeming manipulative. This debut is richly rewarding and will linger for its subtle examination of human behavior and emotions—love, trust, guilt and forgiveness.
A smashing debut. (Fiction. 12 & up)