A group of teens at a live-in institution for troubled young people bond, pull off a caper and overcome their issues in an amusing but overly rosy two-narrator tale.
Emmy, adopted from China by white parents, feels out of place and unwanted in her family. She is sent to Heartland Academy after retaliating against a tormentor at school, though readers will quickly come to understand that she also has an eating disorder. Justin, who resents his father’s absence, comes to Heartland following a suicide attempt and after being caught receiving oral sex from a girl he met earlier that day. Both Emmy and Justin speak to readers with engaging degrees of sarcasm and emotional honesty, and the interactions between the two narrators and among the other members of their anger-management group provide both action and moments of comedy. Where the narrative missteps, however, is in the teens’ speedy recoveries. A field trip leads the group to reveal to each other the roots of many of their issues, and the pact they make for the afternoon—the anorexic girl will eat; the compulsive liar will tell the truth; the girl with selective mutism will speak—is implausibly successful. Final revelations, both of which involve the teens’ coming to understand or forgive their parents, read more like what adults wish Emmy and Justin would feel than what teens in their situation might actually experience.
Funny and fast-moving—but too much of the healing rings hollow. (Fiction. 14-18)