Maya Abrams and Elián Martinez first met when Elián was being used by his abusive kidnapper to blow up a local Seattle mall.
The trauma of this day left them both with PTSD and the feeling that they were hopelessly broken. A year after the failed mall bombing, Maya and Elián, now using the name Eli Rivera to protect his identity, end up at the same high school. The two become close because of their shared experience even though they are not supposed to associate in order to protect Eli’s identity. They both find everyday tasks, even socializing, difficult to manage, but Eli makes friends with another loner at school. As the anniversary of the mall bombing gets closer, they find that Gabriel, the man who orchestrated the mall bombing, is in fact not their greatest threat. Eli and his family are Latinx, Maya is white, and her girlfriend is biracial (Asian/white). Emerson’s depictions of PTSD and anxiety ring true, allowing the reader to really get a feeling for what is going on in the characters’ heads. This is a challenging book in which readers are witness to the moments that “break” Maya and Eli and watch as they struggle over and over yet succeed in slowly building themselves back up again. It is exhilarating to observe these characters reclaim their power.
A moving read that will keep readers up late into the night. (Suspense. 15-18)