At the heart of Oates' riveting and poignant story of three teenage girls in crisis is the notion that a "secret can be too toxic to expose to a friend."
In part 1, it's mid-December of their senior year at Quaker Heights Day School, a prep school in an affluent New Jersey suburb. Merissa, "The Perfect One," has just been accepted early admission at Brown, with more good news to come. When she desperately needs a release—from the pressures to succeed, hypocrisy and her parents' disintegrating marriage—she secretly embraces cutting. Part 2 flashes back to 15 months earlier, when smart, funny, edgy, unpredictable Tink, a former child star, transfers into their junior class and changes everything. Part 3 picks back up in the winter of their senior year and focuses on Nadia, who falls prey to sexts and cyberbullying. Tink's suicide is revealed early on, and yet she remains a believable and critical touchstone for Merissa and Nadia, part of the girls of Tink Inc. The author is a master at portraying the complex, emotional inner lives of these teens, and their contemporary adolescent voices and perceptions (and misperceptions) ring true. The psychological dramas, though numerous, are deftly handled. What appears at first to be a bleak worldview does in fact make room for healing, change and standing up for what's right.
Intense, keenly insightful, nuanced and affecting. (Fiction. 14 & up)