Trying to fit in, Rae never lets on that money is tight, that her stepfather is cruel and narcissistic, and that her mother turns a blind eye to his atrocities. When handsome Nathan Sharp arrives at her school, she accepts his offer of a date. Immediately, it is clear that Nathan isn't quite right, with his extreme neediness and intensely possessive behavior. Rae is achingly slow to pick up on these blatant red flags, but that seems understandable, taking into account her home life. There, her stepfather's abuse escalates as he loses his job and begins to dabble in shady enterprises. Through all of this darkness, Rae finds solace in writing poetry, which she shares anonymously in the school paper, and comfort with Leo, the shy, kind boy who works at the coffee shop. Important issues are examined, but the plot threads are many, and some seemingly important ones fizzle out dully, and the resolution of Nathan and Rae’s relationship is far too tidy.
Many of the elements of contemporary realistic fiction are present and accounted for—poetry, abuse, love triangles—however, this ends up reading like a not-as-romantic version of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay (2009). (Fiction. 13 & up)