Family breakups are the pits; six months into hers, Whitley Johnson is a one-girl disaster—partying more and loving it less. Coping isn’t her strong suit.
Whitley’s embittered mother is obsessed with her ex-husband, a newscaster Whitley sees only for a few weeks each summer. Her brother, married with a new child, lives across the country. Throughout high school, Whitley self-medicated with tequila and drunken hookups. She’s not happy to discover that her graduation-night hookup, Nathan, is the son of her dad’s fiancée, Sylvia. There’s a lot to love about this story. Whitley’s genuine—abrasive and outwardly tough, inwardly miserable and self-lacerating—a smart, assertive girl and a refreshing change from the passive, wryly observant heroines of non-paranormal fiction. Her gay best friend is a collection of stereotypes, though, from his fashion obsession to his vocabulary. Why Whitley is so drawn to Bailey, Nathan’s rather dull younger sister (her passionate quest to make the high school cheerleading squad goes unquestioned), isn’t clear. A half-hearted, preachy rationale for Whitley’s excesses surfaces occasionally, but luckily for readers, she’s complex enough to transcend didacticism, emerging as a rounded human being with her own internal logic.
With her third novel, this young author continues to evolve; a talent to watch. (Fiction. 15 & up)