After an operation for an ectopic pregnancy, an emotionally distraught 16-year-old girl struggles to care for her imaginary baby over the objections of her caring best friend and angry, joyless mother.
When readers meet Jules McCauley, she believes she’s working in a factory that provides housing for her and daycare for her newborn baby girl, Zoe. But as she talks about her experiences—the “get-acquainted meetings” for the workers run by Dr. Stapleton (whom Jules thinks is an efficiency expert), the craziness of the other employees, and the vitamins the staff insists she take—it gradually becomes apparent that Jules is delusional and in an institution. Sensitively weaving the past and present together, Lyon adroitly describes the texture of the troubled teen’s world in the girl’s voice, which switches tenses appropriately. Particularly masterful is her depiction of Jules’s social-worker mother, an icy, furious woman who is so emotionally tone-deaf that she’s surprised when a potential client with cancer is offended when she asks if the woman will be around long enough to collect benefits. Jules’ therapy in the hands of the kindly Emma Douglas initially works, but the pat conclusion—an epiphany that leads to a too-easy cure—is hard to buy.
Still, an intriguing window into the life of a damaged teen. (Fiction. 14 & up)