From his opening announcement, “I don’t feel the presence of God here,” Andrew Winston Winters pulls readers into his story, alternating between his desperate life at an upscale Vermont boarding school and his grim, shadowed Virginia childhood.
Present-day Win is smart, competitive and untrusting, estranged from his former roommate, Lex, his one ally and defender. The reasons for Win’s self-loathing and keyed-up anxiety won’t be fully revealed until story’s end. What exactly does he expect to happen during the full moon? Why has he fallen out with Lex? Win’s privileged childhood, when he was known as Drew, is another mystery. A violent child prone to motion sickness, his unvarnished self-portrait contains big gaps. What’s happened to Keith, Win’s gentle older brother, and Siobhan, their beloved younger sister? Kuehn unwinds her story like a cat toy, teasing readers. Only when all the pieces are fit into the puzzle will the mystery at its heart become clear. How the horrific secrets Win’s been hoarding have shaped his past and explain his present crisis dominates the narrative. Timing—why he’s experiencing his crisis and the choices flowing from it, now—gets less attention, leaving unanswered questions.
A high-powered voice rich in charismatic style and emotional intensity illuminates this ambitious debut that doesn’t quite live up to its potential. (Fiction. 13 & up)