Three best friends alternate narration of their junior year of high school as they explore sex, romance, and independence.
Each teen clearly represents a high school stock character—Alex: tomboy with a secret crush on her best male friend; Veronica: proudly promiscuous; and Mollie: willing to sacrifice her sense of self to keep her athlete boyfriend. Outwardly each teen embraces her role in the trio—Veronica’s quick laughter at the slut-shaming jokes her best friends lob at her is actively painful. But the characters transcend stereotypes when their private narrations reveal each girl’s discomfort with her assigned social position in the trio and in the school’s social hierarchy. Their inner musings about the secret jealousies and hurt feelings that exist among the trio combine with the girls’ independent and collective confusion about acceptable sexual roles for women for a disheartening window into modern teens’ identity dilemmas. Unfortunately, after creating interesting characters, Saft forces the trio into a soap opera of secret sexual dalliances with one another’s boyfriends. Eventually a revenge plot involves two of the girls slipping their friend a roofie, after which she is almost sexually assaulted by a teacher. This chilling attempted sexual violence is too easily dismissed during the girls’ quick reconciliation.
Saft’s debut develops admirably complex characters but then fails to deliver a plot worthy of them. (Fiction. 14-18)