High school as crucible of character is a mainstay of teen fiction, but seldom have its dilemmas and dramas been so precisely re-created in all their brutal, claustrophobic intensity as in this debut: part morality play, part suspense tale.
Reyna Fey begins freshman year under a cloud. Her friends attend the town’s other high school. She still bears scars from the death of her mother, killed by a drunk driver; her father’s girlfriend, Lucy, crashed his car, injuring him, yet they’re closer than ever. When a smart, odd and prickly classmate befriends her, Reyna is conflicted. Olive’s a social pariah, but her frankness and honesty attract shy Reyna, who keeps her own resentments under wraps, muffled by a conventional Roman Catholic upbringing. Observing a homophobic history teacher and discovering that Levi, the boy she’s drawn to, has two mothers challenge Reyna’s worldview but fail to dislodge her assumptions or overcome her longing to be included in the social wolf pack. Watching Reyna repeatedly abandon her better self to chase the ephemera of “normalcy” is gripping and agonizing. Olive—manipulative and rude—is no angel, but in high school’s deceptive hall of mirrors, her honesty is as valuable as it is rare.
Compelling, honest storytelling. (Fiction. 13 & up)