A touching debut chronicles the coming-of-age of three high school seniors, misfits and best friends.
Neither Dill, Travis, nor Lydia feels at home in Forrestville, a small Tennessee town named after the founder of the Klu Klux Klan. Lydia's loving, prosperous parents have given her the tools to create a popular blog and the glittering prospect of college life in New York City. Travis, on the other hand, escapes his father's drunken brutality and his own heartbreak over his soldier brother's death by retreating into a fictional fantasy world. And Dillard Early Jr. can't escape his name: his snake-handling preacher father became notorious in these parts when he was incarcerated for child porn. Some—Dill's mother among them—blame Dill for his father's conviction. Lydia is determined to realize her dreams, and she is equally determined that the boys dream, too. Dill just wants Lydia to stay. Writing in third-person chapters that alternate among the three characters, Zentner covers the whole of their senior year, with heartbreak and a hopeful conclusion. Characters, incidents, dialogue, the poverty of the rural South, enduring friendship, a desperate clinging to strange faiths, fear of the unknown, and an awareness of the courage it takes to survive, let alone thrive, are among this fine novel's strengths.
Zentner writes with understanding and grace—a new voice to savor. (Fiction. 14 & up)