In Castrovilla’s (Revolutionary Friends, 2013, etc.) YA novel, a teenager finds an existential crisis in a doughnut shop—and a love like no other.
When straight-laced 16-year-old Dorothy meets rough-edged 17-year-old Joey at a Dunkin’ Donuts in her new home of Highland Park, her friend Amy warns her to keep her distance. But she can’t ignore the fact that she and Joey are drawn to each other. She’s a stereotypical “good girl”; her parents, both successful professionals, regularly quiz her on her whereabouts and watch for truancy. Joey, on the other hand, is a quintessential lost soul: a paradoxical, convoluted figure whose violent past has left him with literal scars. He’s also physically intimidating, with a reputation to match, but it’s a façade that masks his sensitive, traumatized interior. Joey’s father, a police officer who beats his family, is another obstacle to his happiness, and as Dorothy does her utmost to save Joey from a life of alcoholism and nihilism, his father stands in the way, a perpetual source of danger. Joey and Dorothy must find their way as they struggle with doubt and fear for their lives. The story is told from Joey’s and Dorothy’s first-person points of view, alternating between snappy prose and jagged, sharp-edged poetry that evokes the terror of violence and the ecstasy of infatuation. The author sugarcoats nothing in this tale of adolescence and anxiety, nor does she paint its characters with a broad brush. Dorothy and Joey’s plight is both an inner and an outer struggle, a reckoning with a cold world, and a psychological drama about the stakes of truth-telling that ends with a gratifying act of mercy.
A fresh, emotionally complex bildungsroman of young American love that looks long and hard at violence, and at what can overcome it.