In the wake of a drunk-driving accident, a girl destined to be homecoming queen finds herself wondering who she really is.
Paige was hustled off to France for the summer by her parents to get over the shame. When she gets back to school in the fall, it's hard to fall back into sync with her best friends, also in the accident. Worse, her boyfriend, though he swears he still loves her and seems to like making out with her, is spending an awful lot of time with one of them. Paige is surprised to find that the best class of the day is creative writing, where she makes friends with a couple of kids on the fringe. Through writing exercises, she revisits the night of the accident and interrogates herself—and she doesn't always like what she learns. Paige's journey out of the Mean Girls IT group won't shock readers, but it unfolds with pleasingly realistic hesitations, as does her relationship with the new, uncool boy. Backes has more trouble with her secondary characters; while some feel very real, others never depart from stereotype. Subplots involving homophobic attacks on the writing teacher, Paige's difficult relationship with her social-climbing mother and an anti–drunk-driving campaign weave in and out with sometimes-faltering success, particularly the last. But the writing is fluid, Paige is a likably unreliable narrator and the high-school setting is believably sordid.
A mostly solid, if a little too long, high-school drama. (Fiction. 14 & up)