A California teen finds her way at a ritzy East Coast boarding school.
Wren, a budding guitarist and singer, and her journalist mother, Hannah, have always managed life as a cozy unit of two in Ventura, California. When Hannah announces that she’s sending Wren to her Connecticut alma mater, Hardwick Hall, for the duration of her long-term reporting assignment in Greenland, Wren is surprised but takes it in stride. She’s never felt deeply Californian, and maybe being on her mother’s old turf can help her uncover a secret Hannah’s always held close: the identity of Wren’s biological father. At Hardwick, Wren struggles with the usual fish-out-of-water issues: making friends a month into the second year of high school is hard; the school’s rules and subtle New England class distinctions are confusing; and worst of all, her suitemate Honor is extremely and inexplicably frosty. On the plus side, Wren discovers the joy of horseback riding and finds a true friend in Chazzy, a talented and daring singer who encourages her to audition for a musical-performance class taught by an indie-rock heroine. Clues to Wren’s father’s identity are clearly signposted, but her flash of understanding, against the backdrop of a life-threatening crisis for Hannah, feels earned, and her reunion with him is both warm and believably complex.
Wren’s engaging voice combines with a strong sense of place and nicely developed secondary characters to yield a satisfying read. (Fiction. 12-16)