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by Patricia Carney

Pub Date: July 2nd, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-68470-672-3
Publisher: Lulu

A realistic YA story follows a teen’s journey from caving in to peer pressure to finding her own path.

Carney’s debut novel opens with 14-year-old Jennifer Shaw making a poor decision to help her friend and fellow student Sammy steal a purse from an older woman. From the very beginning, the author highlights Jennifer’s thought processes; the girl feels reluctance about the endeavor but also assumes that Sammy knows what he’s doing. Jennifer is caught by authorities and sentenced to community service in the Pine Rest Care Center. There, she’ll interact with many elderly people, as the judge wants her to learn to respect her elders. The teen begins a journey of self-discovery that alternates between negative influences and new, positive ones. For example, she later teases Tom Goodhue, her classmate and math whiz—until she realizes that she has more in common with him than she thought. Carney effectively shows how Jennifer gradually progresses from a state of somewhat numb unhappiness to a warmer attitude that includes growing respect for the seniors of Pine Rest as well as for the many adults who support her. (The teen even grudgingly helps plan a dance inspired by her comment that Tom is from “Planet Weirdo”—a mean concept that’s transformed into a creative story.) At the same time, she enjoys the attention of Sammy, who’s fallen in with a suspect group of people, and eventually she must choose a side. The smooth pacing of the text admirably sets up Jennifer’s relationships, and Carney ably develops many characters as she muses on the nature of community service. Overall, the book’s concepts aren’t new, but readers will enjoy how the author portrays Jennifer’s spunk, creativity, and growth as she faces changes in her life.

An often powerful intergenerational story that overcomes its commonplace life lessons.