This YA sequel sees the bond between two Connecticut teenagers tested by drugs, family dysfunction, and even death.
On Christmas Eve 1984, high school junior Deacon Giroux wakes in a Connecticut hospital. Days ago, he’d been shot by his half brother, Toby, and many—including his girlfriend, 16-year-old Hannah Zandana—believe he is dead. Very much alive, the teen drug dealer finds himself recruited by federal agents Kodak and Eastman to go undercover in Miami. There, Deacon will pose as drug kingpin Xavier Coyne and infiltrate a murderous Colombian cartel. The agents’ target is a drug lord named Chalfont, and Deacon and his partner, Claudia Safire, risk their lives to capture him. Meanwhile, Hannah struggles with her father’s constant criticism of her hair, clothing, and acne. Her mother is addicted to pills and alcohol after losing a baby named Michael. Sadly, the family’s collective pain trickles down to Kerry, Hannah’s younger sister who absorbs emotional stress while zoning out in front of the TV. Though Hannah still loves Deacon, she begins dating classmate Peter to alleviate life’s hurt. During a tumultuous summer, she’ll make an unlikely ally who’s willing to help investigate the clues that Deacon lives. In her novel, Cumiskey (I Like You Like This, 2017) crafts not only an excellent portrait of teen life in the mid-’80s, but also a fun homage to cultural touchstones like Miami Vice. While undercover, Deacon sports flamboyant sport coats and bottle-blond hair. Hannah, who soldiers on in a painful search for emotional clarity, reaches out to school mean girls like Gillian, who’s gay and lives miserably in the closet. But the author’s outsider protagonist keeps readers engaged by never joining a clique in which each girl works “harder than the next to stay in the pack and avoid expulsion.” The narrative flow is superb because characters frequently take bold action, and the fallout feeds back into Hannah’s and Deacon’s development. Overall, readers never endure scenes that are too saccharine or grisly, which adds a vibrant glow to the writing.
A teen tale that avoids easy answers while gliding to a confident landing.