HEADLONG by Kathe Koja


Age Range: 14 & up
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Lily Noble, a sophomore at Vaughn, an upscale private boarding school, is secure in her sheltered, advantaged life until a scholarship student, Hazel Tobias, arrives. Through their friendship, Lily discovers the complex and colorful world beyond Vaughn and its smug noblesse oblige traditions. Just as Lily is drawn to Hazel’s bohemian family, Hazel is increasingly attracted to the high-achieving culture of Vaughn. With a fine attention to detail—her observations have a subtle, pointillist precision reminiscent of Carolyn Coman and Nancy Werlin—Koja creates compelling, nuanced characters. The portrait of Vaughn, its faculty and staff, and the students’ socialization in their comfortable prison of privilege, are spot on. However, a taut narrative that trades in reader anticipation, shuttling back and forth in time to build suspense, demands an equally powerful climax and resolution. Here, however, the author drops the ball, rescuing her characters from the consequences of their choices and the changes, positive and otherwise, toward which they’ve been moving. Despite its flaws, however, the book is mostly a pleasure, and Koja remains an author to watch. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-374-32912-9
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2008


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