Fifteen-year-old American Rosemary, desperate to escape her mother, poses as an art student to find a new family in France.
The white teen has never been alone. Her mother schedules every moment so they'll never be apart. Luckily, her friend Jada, who is white and severely disabled, understands her voice, which is distorted by a neurological disorder called childhood apraxia of speech. Jada unwittingly aids her elaborate, rash, perversely sympathetic scheme to stay with a host couple in Nice…and eventually take their absent son's place. After an abrupt misunderstanding thwarts her plan, Rosemary makes a dangerous accusation. Compared to the cloying unease braiding through Rosemary's accounts of her mother and the sickening dread of her unraveling lies, a subplot involving hidden art and one-dimensional villains feels superfluous. The warm portrayal of her host parents intensifies Rosemary's longing to speak out until her narration almost hurts, but the vivid emotions fade in a pat denouement. The reason for her mother's tight leash doesn't justify the years of infantilization and virtual imprisonment. Though done out of love, her mother's overprotectiveness reads as psychological abuse, and the quick resolution of her mother's potentially crippling restrictions implies that good intentions override their effects—a particularly unfortunate implication for a book featuring several characters with disabilities.
A deeply unsettling portrait of love, psychological abuse, and the hell of good intentions. (Fiction. 13-18)