A girl from a ranch in Montana must quickly adjust to life in Washington, D.C., when her older sister puts their ailing grandfather into a facility.
Sixteen-year-old Tess loves her life on the ranch and thinks she has successfully hidden, so far, her custodial grandfather’s deterioration into dementia. Her sister, Ivy, however, isn’t fooled and abruptly moves Tess to D.C., enrolling her in the exclusive Hardwicke School. Ivy is a high-power political consultant, with the president and first lady her major clients and a well-earned reputation for making the impossible happen, for covering up scandals, and for manipulating the press. When Tess inadvertently becomes embroiled in a major scandal, she can’t leave things to Ivy because the events disrupt the lives of her new friends at school. When murder enters the picture, she tries to unravel the mystery of whodunit. Even though Ivy warns her to stay out of it, Tess and her new friends just can’t stop themselves from conducting their own investigations, no matter how risky they become. Barnes paints a convincing behind-the-scenes picture of national politics, and the social scene in the Hardwicke School mirrors the power-play atmosphere. The plot struggles between politics and suspense, finally settling for the latter as the action picks up, but readers will find plenty to enjoy with the interesting characters, especially Tess, Ivy, and an underused ne’er-do-well, Asher.
Intriguing despite its unevenness. (Thriller. 12-18)