When anger + inappropriate behavior + mystery = a different kind of trouble

trouble

Sometimes realistic teen books almost need warnings. Something like: Do not attempt this. The author in no way recommends or encourages the behavior within these pages.

Zoe Webster has been forced (by her parents’ divorce) to move away from her friends and her city to live in a dump of a town, loaded with cliques, strange cults, angry ex-policemen and the usual cast of high school characters. Digby shows up on her doorstep and the layers start peeling back—missing girls, drug rings, parents with problems, detention-worthy behavior, vicious mean girls, secrets.

On many levels, this book is really just out there. Totally unbelievable. Should never happen. And yet, having spent a fair amount of time in high schools as an adult somewhat removed from actually living the drama, there is more truth to this vision of Zoe’s life than you might expect. There are so many moments of bad decision which ring true to how your brain really works when you’re not a child, but you definitely aren’t an adult and wouldn’t really even want to be one, because that life probably sucks, too.

Zoe goes along with too much, sure, but she’s not alone in that. The adults make a boatload of bad decisions, too, and almost everyone is in it for themselves and not usually for the best of reasons. So, yes, there’s a lot of inappropriate behavior here and some upsetting things, but nothing any average older teen hasn’t seen or heard about in a public high school almost anywhere. And the characters and writing manage to lift the story to a different level, so that as the impossible moments stack up, you ride along with them, still holding on to a tiny hope that things will somehow work out.

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