Stationed in Afghanistan, medic Ben spends a long day drafting a detailed confession about the tragedy that threw his life off course two years earlier.
When the tiny town of Merit, Wis., loses its football hero to a drunk-driving accident, his family needs help on their dairy farm. High school senior Ben steps up to help. His mother hopes it’ll give him fodder for his Yale admissions essay; Ben, unsure he wants to follow the path she’s laid out for him, just likes helping the stern Mr. and Mrs. Lange and their 15-year-old son, Jimmy. When Jimmy wins a national photography contest with sensual photographs of his own father and Ben (both taken without permission), rumors that the baby-faced Jimmy is gay jump into overdrive—and start circulating about Ben, who then distances himself from Jimmy. When Ben witnesses a horrific crime and does nothing, his life spins out of control; he begins to doubt himself, his senses, his motives…even his connection to reality. Bick’s compelling tale manages to be a blistering confessional and a page-turning whodunit (or maybe what-really-happened) all in one. Ben’s thoughts on sexuality, the dangers of rumor, individual freedom and personal responsibility, among other topics, will resonate with teens, who won’t mind the lack of a tidy end.
Readers won’t be able to look away even if they find they don’t much like—or trust—Ben. (Fiction. 14 & up)