Del, 17, high-school senior, convicted felon and registered sex offender for three years, keeps his head down at school, digs graves part-time and stays numb with the help of his iPod playlists.
The only child of loving parents, Del has a therapist, probation officer, parrot, one friend, an unwelcome admirer and no prospects. Through flashbacks, Del unfolds the story surrounding his “crime,” the event that’s derailed his life (even community colleges won’t let him apply). When the pretty girl he’s noticed visiting the cemetery introduces herself, their mutual attraction helps him acknowledge his repressed feelings, rekindling his hope for a future. Vaught, a practicing psychiatrist, knows her territory and portrays the senselessly harsh consequences of criminalizing normal behavior in lucid, convincing detail. She weakens her case by making white, middle-class Del a paragon: thoughtful, smart, handsome, kind, mature and good with parrots—he has assets and support most teens in trouble can only dream of. This miscarriage of justice hasn’t changed him, just his interactions with the world. Teens lacking Del’s personal and material resources face more daunting obstacles.A valuable look at the downside of prosecutorial discretion and its impact on teens, but Del’s privileged background and saintly character won’t reflect many readers’ experiences. (Fiction. 14 & up)