Williamsburg, Connecticut, is a one-stoplight town where everything interesting happened in the past—until a cool Brooklynite from the other Williamsburg turns up.
High school juniors Ray and Simon are used to being outcasts—so utterly insignificant that they are ignored by peers, no longer even important enough to be bullied. Until Jane Doe (her name changed for privacy) walks into biology class, sits down beside Ray, and upends the order of the universe. Jane, who dresses in black, listens to obscure folk music, loves conspiracy theories, and has a troubling history she won’t discuss, is won over by the duo as history buff Ray and vampire-loving, milk-guzzling Simon introduce her to the highlights of “Burgerville,” including the legend of the vicious green cows. While Ray and Jane fall in love—and set Simon up with Mary, his first girlfriend—even the caring attention of a sincere boy cannot rescue Jane from depression. Narrated by Ray in chapters labelled according to the number of days before or after the book’s pivotal climax, the novel sensitively explores mental health, loss, and grief. Spot-on pacing and well-drawn secondary characters round out this impressive debut. Mary is Filipina, and Ray’s therapist is black; other characters are white.
Suffused with quirky humor and equal parts life-affirming and heartbreaking, John Green fans will gobble this one up. (author’s note/resources) (Fiction. 14-adult)