Lita has spent her first fourteen years living alone in the woods with a slit-eyed, nasty grandfather, and her awkwardly poetic, improvised country speech is the best thing about her. When Lita runs away from Jake, only to be taken in by Talmos the gypsy and his dying wife who's turned to prostitution to provide her children with an inheritance, the brutality in her life is just beginning. And unfortunately Lita's story is convincing mostly when it is violent--Hank, the half-crazy ex-con who molests her, dry-humping her when he catches her on the road at night and threatening rape at every turn, is menacingly real. Peter, the author, who offers a gentler kind of sex and promises escape to a New England commune, is far less believable. Aside from his stilted talk, he doesn't seem capable of loving anyone so devotedly--certainly not an illiterate teenager. But Schneider--grasping at straws for a way to turn raw, half-formed but promising material into a YA novel--asks us to trust in his solicitous power to redeem Lira from destruction. Meanwhile the character of Talmos, the gypsy who kills Hank to save her, is left hanging. . . the irony, the complexity is hinted at, but the reader just can't see what his attraction is. Although certain scenes here will offend YA professionals, it's easy to see that Lita had something going for her in the beginning. But her promise soon fizzles and our empathy with this jerry-built story goes with it.