A high school senior who hasn't spoken in five years meets a mysterious girl who claims to be a lot older than possible.
Silent Parker Santé loves fancy hotels, because they're beautiful and filled with rich people whose stuff he can swipe. While hanging out at San Francisco's Palace Hotel on Halloween, he's transfixed by a lovely, silver-haired girl who looks around his age. He steals her cash, but circumstances lead to him properly introducing himself to the girl, Zelda Toth. They swap some personal information, he writing and she talking: he's been mute since his father died in a car accident, and he writes short stories in spiral-bound notebooks; she plans to spend her last five grand and then jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Thus begins a whirlwind couple of days filled with unexpected firsts for Parker and possible lasts for Zelda. In a lesser writer's hands, Zelda (who claims to be nearly 250 years old) would have devolved into the ultimate manic pixie dream girl, but Wallach explores her journey with enough depth that her role isn't just to act as Parker's guide. The author of We All Looked Up (2015) manages to bypass the sophomore slump with this fascinating and romantic tale that's less about whether Zelda's really forever 18 and more about the power of sharing stories.
An absorbing coming-of-age narrative about the power of connection. (Fiction. 14 & up)