Eighteen-year-old small-town mechanic Sawyer Taft gets much more than she bargains for when she’s made an offer she can’t possibly refuse.
Sawyer, who is white (as are all major characters), has never known her father’s identity, and her mother, Ellie, hasn’t exactly been the most reliable caretaker: In fact, sometimes Sawyer feels more like the mother in their relationship. Evidently Sawyer’s maternal grandmother, “aging Southern belle” Lillian Taft, tossed Ellie out when she became pregnant at 17 and has never kept in touch—or so Ellie claimed. When Lillian offers Sawyer a contract promising half a million bucks and a chance to find out who her biological father really is, Sawyer signs, but she must participate in all the season’s debutante events. Sawyer’s relatives don’t quite match the picture that her mother painted: Lillian is chock-full of Southern charm but with an edge that the wryly funny, no-nonsense Sawyer admires, and she grows close to her cousin, Lily. When Sawyer stumbles onto the dark secrets of a senator’s daughter out for revenge, finding her father takes a back seat to events that could signal disaster for the Tafts. One thing is certain: Nothing, and no one, is what it seems. Barnes’ (Bad Blood, 2017, etc.) immersive world of Southern debs hides a darkness beneath the white-gloved veneer of civility.
Sawyer’s smart narrative, along with plenty of biting social commentary, will keep readers turning the pages. (Fiction. 14-18)