Grief, addiction, first loves, and traveling an unplanned road are among the many themes explored in this debut novel.
After growing up in an insular town in Colorado, graduating senior Scarlett has big ambitions. Though she dabbles with alcohol and drugs, her intelligence, drive, and propensity for physics pave her way into college after college. At the same time, her close relationships prove difficult for Scarlett to leave behind: her best friend, Hannah; ex-boyfriend, Cody; and lifelong friend, David, with whom a clandestine romance, replete with a sort of magnetic sexual draw, blooms. Moving between the present and two points in the recent past, her heartfelt yet often sardonic first-person narration fills in the details of this deeply authentic story, realistically portraying how paralyzing unexpected circumstances and tragedy can be. Scarlett herself is marvelously complex, sympathetic but difficult, grief-stricken and funny. Secondary characters are also well developed, imbued with interesting backstories that help frame this study both in how people can break one another and hold each other together. Scarlett and David are both white, Cody is Latinx, and there is some diversity in ethnicity, gender, and sexuality among the people Scarlett meets while at her fictional college in Maine.
Lovely, evocative, unadorned writing shines in this smart, poignant story that serious teen readers shouldn’t miss. (Fiction. 14-18)