In an engrossing, carefully unfolding drama, sophomore Kate Franklin adjusts to a new school, a powerful set of friends and a family that is falling apart.
After their mother’s death two years earlier, Kate and Brett’s father threw himself into his work. Now hired to coach the basketball team at an elite prep school, he decrees that his children will transfer to Beacon from their public high school. Kate falls in easily with the popular crowd, helped, perhaps, by their interest in her father’s prestigious position. Despite her enthusiasm about her new friends and boyfriend, Jack, readers can see her discomfort when Jack cheats off her homework or pressures her for sex and when her friends bully and insult her brother. When Brett announces his decision to enlist in the Army, Kate is devastated, but the popular crowd has no patience for her becoming sad and withdrawn. The incidents that lead to Kate’s friends turning on her, including a sexual assault, are realistically and painfully drawn. Chapters begin with poems and essays of varying quality, although as Kate never talks about writing in her narration, the revelation late in the book that these pieces come from her own private blog is somewhat unconvincing.
Overall, a sophisticated, evocative portrait of a teen girl finding her place among peers and family. (Fiction. 14-18)