Senior year changes everything.
Ever since discovering that her always-absent father actually raped her mother, and her subsequent birth destroyed her mother's hopes of a college degree, Annabeth has felt like a monster. Fortunately, throughout high school, she's held the position of Noe's best friend. They plan matching tattoos and matching futures. Noe also anchors her new boyfriend, Steven, an elegant and quirky actor with a suicidal past. Annabeth and Steven strike a limited but playful friendship, and all goes well until Noe begins to change. A remarkably casual sexual encounter leads to an abortion for Annabeth while visiting her cousin in college. Afterward, while her relationship with her mother continues to be strained ("[we] loved each other with eyes averted, like birds circling a pile of grain but never coming close enough to peck"), Annabeth reluctantly begins to drop agreed-upon pretenses in favor of the truth. Admitting to Noe's costs Annabeth their friendship; admitting to her own is harder. Steven teeters dangerously on the edge of a different truth. Some of the issues, particularly regarding Annabeth's father, feel forced, but the mess and loose ends of this story reflect human reality. Annabeth emerges as a complicated character doing her best. Smith's prose is knock-down gorgeous.
A fearless writer ably tackles a difficult story. (Fiction. 14 & up)