When disaster strikes a working-class town, the class clown learns her coping mechanisms don't help anyone.
Keeley is completely psyched for her senior year in tiny, largely white Aberdeen. Unfortunately, after a spring so cold and wet that kids are wearing thermals and winter coats in May, the river floods, destroying many homes and closing the high school for good. As the worst of the floodwaters recede but the rains don't stop, the mayor and governor encourage the locals to abandon the town, offering hefty insurance payouts. Keeley's dad thinks the governor (who plans a profitable dam) intentionally keeps the town in poor repair. Maybe the conspiracy is real, but in a town of boarded-up shopfronts and saturated homes, what options does anyone have? Keeley, a jokester who always takes every joke that one step too far, ramps up her high jinks to distract her glum friends. Through a post-evacuation frame story and a seemingly endless collection of hinted-at mysteries, unreliable narrator Keeley escalates her increasingly bad behavior, alienating her best friend. The buildup is lovely, but the payoff of Keeley's growth comes both too late and too suddenly, happening all at once as Aberdeen's clock winds down. Nonetheless, it’s a richly layered portrayal of bad boys, girl pranksters, even conspiracies.
The almost-dystopian setting of post-flood Aberdeen makes a beautifully surreal setting, even if Keeley's journey can't quite carry the narrative. (Fiction. 13-16)