A Virginia teen tries to pay for college—and escape home—by brewing moonshine in Tomp's debut for teens.
Lulu Mendez has just graduated high school and can't wait to leave her junkyard job, her agoraphobic mother, her mostly absent father, and even her best friend, Roni, to attend college in San Diego. When her father loses her tuition in a business venture, Lulu steals a still left at the junkyard and enlists the help of Roni, Roni's boyfriend, Bucky, and local bad-boy Mason to make and sell moonshine. Mason's family has long dealt in the trade; in fact, he is a recovering alcoholic who has distanced himself from his roots. Nevertheless, he joins in this somewhat improbable venture and sees it to its catastrophic close. The second-person narration begins as an interesting device—Lulu is writing to Mason, but why?—but becomes a liability as the story progresses. Lulu's emotions become specifically told, not shown, especially regarding her family and her past, so readers can't fully invest in her as a character. The story takes too long to develop and the ending wraps up a little too neatly, moreover, and Appalachian stereotypes abound.
Despite stumbles, Tomp's smooth prose marks her as a writer with a future. (Fiction 14-18)