A young couple must navigate the challenges and temptations of adulthood and marriage in Lahti’s debut novel.
When young teenager Casey Peterson meets handsome, 18-year-old Michael Davis at Six Flags Over Texas, she instantly falls in love. Michael, who has a talent for singing and playing guitar, graduated from high school early and now works for his father’s construction company. The young couple is soon inseparable, and Michael begins calling her “Jessie,” short for “Jessicalina,” which he says means “beautiful.” After a year of dating, they face a very adult reality when she becomes pregnant at 15. Michael convinces Casey to marry him despite their parents’ objections to their relationship. They find a place to live, and Casey, who’s dropped out of school, legally changes her name to “Jessie.” When she gives birth to twin daughters, Ischelle and Ashley, they’re overjoyed, and they eventually reconcile with their parents. Despite their happiness, though, they soon face challenges that test the strength of their relationship, including Michael’s jealous streak. An extended visit to Michael’s grandparents’ home ends in an act of violence that leaves Jessie physically and emotionally traumatized. Later, Michael rents rooms in their own home to a divorcée and her three children—a decision that puts the couple’s relationship in jeopardy. Lahti’s novel is part coming-of-age novel and part suspense yarn. The character development is strong throughout, and it offers a thoughtful examination of the realities of teen parenthood. Jessie, who serves as the narrator, is the story’s anchor, and her voice is poignant and authentic as she evolves from a naïve teenager in love to a wife and mother struggling to keep a troubled marriage together while wondering what her life might have been like if she’d stayed in school. Michael is a similarly nuanced character—a young man whose love for Jessie and his family is nearly overshadowed by his own demons. Other prominent subplots, such as when another teenager becomes obsessed with Michael, keep the novel moving at a brisk pace.
An intricately plotted exploration of teen parenthood that moves like a thriller.