Four privileged Long Island teens befriend their favorite YA author with disastrous results.
Soon after their first encounter at a book signing, the bewitching and charismatic Fatima Ro—23-year-old author of Undertow—takes four of her teenage worshippers under her wing. Snobbish Miri Tan is the self-proclaimed leader of their school’s Undertow Society, giddy fangirl Soleil Johnston carefully documents every one of her interactions with Ro, ditzy Penny Panzarella kindly helps out around the author’s house after being given a key, and socially isolated Jonah Nicholls harbors an emotional attachment to Ro’s story. But when she very obviously writes them into her next novel, The Absolution of Brady Stevenson, the teens’ rose-tinted glasses are shattered, painful truths are uncovered—and, most shocking of all, Jonah is attacked and ends up in a coma. The story is related via a mixture of formats, including video interview transcripts, magazine articles, and passages from Ro’s second novel, with each providing insight into the characters’ individual relationships with the author. The weight of grief, authentic human connections, and whether life offers do-overs are all explored here. A lack of physical descriptions requires readers to speculate about characters’ ethnicities based on the diversity of their names.
Utterly addictive and psychologically delectable—Peñaflor’s (Unscripted Joss Byrd, 2016) second novel will shock at every twist and turn. (Fiction. 13-18)