Home for the holidays from her posh Pennsylvania boarding school, high school junior Emma is shocked to learn her mother’s long-hidden schizophrenia has resurfaced.
Emma feels blindsided by both her mother’s behavior—she suffers from the delusion that their family is under constant, creepy surveillance—and the belated disclosure of her illness. (Diagnosed years earlier, it’s been well-controlled with medication.) Emma seeks solace with her boyfriend, Daniel, but needy, anxious and subject to panic attacks, she wants more than he is prepared to give. Phil, whose brother is a fellow patient of Emma’s mother, is more understanding—and attractive. Emma’s fear of developing her mother’s condition isn’t easily assuaged, however. Daniel, Phil, her mother and other characters are briefly allowed to speak for themselves and then elbowed aside, sentenced to storytelling limbo so Emma can do it for them. A hands-on narrator, self-involved Emma’s hard to like. Title notwithstanding, hers is a narcissistic world of bright, overprivileged teens who in their copious free time enjoy casual sex, drink heavily, smoke weed and snort cocaine with friends and at home, with tacit parental consent if not approval, in settings ranging from affluent Westchester suburbs to a spacious apartment on Central Park West.
Family mental illness is rarely explored in novels for teens, but this one, trudging a well-worn path across too-familiar terrain, fails to fill the void. (Fiction. 15-18)