Isabelle lives with her hopelessly alcoholic mother in a series of awful apartments as she tries to take care of her little brother and sister.
She frequently changes schools and usually tries to remain unnoticed, but on her first day at her new high school she runs afoul of Ainsley, the school queen bee, who vows revenge. She also reluctantly falls for attentive Will, who, like Isabelle, Ainsley, and most of their classmates, is white. Most of Isabelle’s time is spent coping with her mother’s addiction and doing her best to raise her baby sister and brother while also holding down a part-time job and attending school. Her life has no time for romance. Her equally drunken uncle doesn’t help matters. Because she is the sole trustworthy guardian of the children, Isabelle can see no way out for herself even as she dreams of escape. She is in love with Will, but how long can that last in Isabelle’s life? Lawrence infuses Isabelle’s voice with passion even at her most hopeless, presenting a convincing portrait of the consequences of an addiction that destroys lives beyond those of the addicts. She places Isabelle in a prison from which there appears to be no escape but also gives her some supporters who, even if they cannot intervene, can help Isabelle find her strength, presenting a story that remains intense and absorbing throughout.
Hard realism with a heart. (Fiction. 12-18)