Relationship extremes take center stage in this debut about a teen navigating her new reality as an outcast following a life-changing event.
As Ellory grimly approaches her senior year, readers only know that she’s returning to her high school, seeking solitude after being suspended and spending the summer away at an art camp. Chapters flashing back to the previous year alternate with the present, slowly revealing the details of a tightknit but often jealous friendship among Ellory, Jenni, Bex, and their leader, Ret, as well as Ellory’s experience with a first love that was also rife with its own problems. Evocative phrasing steeped in the novel’s richly melancholy tone vaunts this story above simple melodrama. Tightly controlled pacing allows time for the audience to come to really care about Ellory even as they cringe at some of her more painfully desperate moments with her boyfriend, Matthias. The reveal of what happened junior year is horrifying though replete with a common-to-thrillers twist that careful readers will see coming. However, the conclusion is still satisfying. Ellory, Ret, Jenni, and Matthias seem to be white, Bex is Moroccan and French-Canadian, and there are ethnically diverse background characters.
A gripping and atmospheric contemporary thriller that excels in portraying the complex intensity of its characters. (Fiction. 14-18)