On an impulse, the senior heartthrob drops a flirty note on a classmate’s desk, sparking a surprising romance.
“I like your sparkle,” reads the note from Penn Mattingly to Harper Fairbanks referring to the tinsel she has worn in her hair to celebrate school-spirit day. Penn’s the perennial love-’em-and-leave-’em bad boy—which is why the levelheaded Harper finds her attraction to him both surprising and deliciously dangerous. Likewise, Penn thinks Harper’s not good for him since she’s too good for him. Soon, they’re hanging out, and their playful banter grows serious as they draw closer. But Harper is increasingly stung, mystified and enraged by Penn’s hot-and-cold moods. When she asks him questions like why he doesn’t play baseball anymore and why he rages at his former best friend and teammate, he’s distant and cold—but other times, he melts her heart. The author lets readers in on what else Harper doesn’t know: that Penn is terrified that his promising baseball career is over and that his dispiriting home life includes an alcoholic father, pot-smoking brother and emotionally debilitated mother. Chapters alternate between the two characters’ vantage points, providing an insightful and humorous look into the complex connections among feelings, actions and words and how easily they can be misconstrued.
An absorbing, skillfully written depiction of two teens caught in a vortex of doubt, insecurity and miscommunication. (Romance. 14-18)