In this novella, a girl leaving foster care plans to move in with one of her Internet boyfriends.
Almost 18, Angelique knows that in “three days the system wouldn’t want her anymore. Which was fine with her.” Angelique can’t wait for freedom—even though she lacks a job, birth certificate and high school diploma. A pretty blue-eyed redhead, Angelique figures one of the three potential boyfriends she’s lined up on Internet dating sites (but hasn’t met) will give her a place to live. “She had been locked up long enough, and nobody was going to tell her what to do anymore. She would be telling them.” Though the reader at this point may be filled with dread on Angelique’s behalf, nothing too horrible happens as she seeks out one Internet boyfriend, then another, in isolated, remote locations. Being abandoned in a Florida motel by a marijuana grower and then picked up by a sex trafficker isn’t so bad: “[S]he still felt stupid about that. But it had been a place to stay for a while, even a place with a swimming pool. She had liked lying out in the sun.” She’s happy, not dismayed, to discover she’s pregnant. In her debut novella, Casebeer employs a minimalist, pared-down style reminiscent of writers like Raymond Carver, the kind that powerfully leaves things unsaid. After a girl commits suicide in Angelique’s group home, “Nobody wanted to go back to the cottage, but there was nowhere else to go.” Casebeer shows a nuanced understanding of the forces that get and keep a girl like Angelique in her situation: the troubled families, the difficulties with anger and impulse control, the overwhelming need for love. And Angelique is never just a victim (her hero is Lisbeth Salander). The novella is unfinished by design, a choice not all readers will find satisfying. Angelique’s story continues every week as an online serial, the author explains, inviting readers “to vote on what happens next in Angelique’s life.”
Spare and intriguing but unresolved.