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by Karen Rivers

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 2023
ISBN: 9781616208165
Publisher: Algonquin

Two teens navigating recent tragedies feel an instant connection when they meet on their first day of senior year, but the guilt they each carry threatens their burgeoning relationship.

Hattie’s mother took off 11 years ago. Since then, Hattie and her dad have fantasized about how the three will be reunited when Hattie swims on the U.S. team at the Olympics. But since 7-year-old Elijah drowned while Hattie was lifeguarding, Hattie has been unable to fathom a future that involves swimming. Presley has relocated from Victoria, British Columbia, to Southern California with his mum and her wife. He and his twin brother, Mac, were ice-skating phenoms until Mac was killed in an auto accident that left Presley with injuries that ended his competitive figure skating dreams. Both feel responsible for the people they have lost, and both deal with physical manifestations of their grief; it is mutual recognition of loss that draws the two together. Their relationship quickly deepens in ways that uncannily parallel the romance novel that has been Hattie’s lifeline since Elijah’s death. Caring friends, an evacuation spurred by wildfires, and an impromptu road trip all play parts in helping the teens move toward healing. Rivers explores trauma with sensitivity: Readers see the wide range of emotions and coping mechanisms that can come into play. Hattie and Presley are cued white; there is some diversity in race and sexual orientation among their friends.

Implausible? Maybe, but also smart and infused with enough heart to make suspending disbelief a pleasure.

(Fiction. 12-18)