Trust is broken and intrigues are explored in this coming-of-age novel about a young man.
Handsome and inquisitive, 18-year-old TJ has connected with Maggie, a young girl who lives nearby for the summer, and they’re in the process of developing a romantic relationship. But this girl is different. Naïve and sheltered, she interests TJ and pushes him to be more caring and concerned. However, the care and concern don’t last long. After falling out with his visiting uncle—TJ discovers that the man he once looked up to has bendable morals and a propensity to act out of selfishness and temptation—TJ then follows his uncle’s path, allowing himself to be seduced and rattled away from his original decision to be a good boyfriend, a stable friend, and an honest human. While the story will resonate with young people exploring romantic relationships, the characters sometimes fall into high school stereotypes. For example, TJ is a tall, lean, athletic boy with tan skin and striking good looks. Girlfriend Maggie describes herself as “plain Jane,” while the other girls who lure TJ are usually exotic and sexy. Readers may feel less compelled to relate to the characters when they fit stereotypes and high school clichés. Nevertheless, several small moments illustrate these characters as real people: Maggie, who wants to go to dentistry school, eventually questions TJ’s sincerity, showing her development from naiveté to awareness while “trying to reconcile the TJ she’d heard about from the other girls at school and the TJ she’d been dating this summer [who] was driving her crazy.” TJ, meanwhile, struggles with inner turmoil when he learns of secretive decisions made by his uncle—ones that could change TJ’s future. These moments of doubt and inner conflict help bring the characters to life while establishing genuine concern for their outcomes. Though the book features teenage characters, the detached third-person narrative voice feels strongly adult—“she held onto TJ’s erection as if she wanted to take it home with her as a souvenir”—and retrospective, like a grown-up looking back. Perhaps, then, adult readers interested in revisiting their teenage years will make an appropriate audience.
Strives for—and sometimes achieves—complexities that surpass superficial teenage drama.