The first scene in the book is Jenna, our 16-year-old main character, in a hospital emergency room talking to a detective named Bob. He obviously wants information that Jenna has, so he leaves her a digital recording device, so she can feel free to talk.
The rest of the story is Jenna's description of her life. She's had a dysfunctional childhood with a mother who is a drunk and a domineering father. She was critically injured in the fire that burned down her grandfather's house. She misses her brother, who used to be the only person she could talk to, but he is away.
Her father decides to take Jenna out of therapy and move her to a new, private high school. Jenna becomes friends with Mr. Anderson, her chemistry teacher and track coach.
I really don't want to say too much. Suffice it to say, Jenna has problems, and as she very slowly reveals the extent of these problems through her narrative, your heart breaks. She finds some comfort, and possibly some healing, by spending time with Mr. Anderson. These characters, especially our narrator, become our friends. There is a slow progression, but it's very steady, and at no time did I feel the exposition was dragging. Every piece added something to my understanding of the situation or characters. There are also a few surprises along the way.
By the time I got to the climactic ending of this book, I didn't know what to think. It's confusing -- and we wonder, just like Jenna, what to believe. Bick really sums up her (and my) feelings in the acknowledgments at the end of the book. I can't really quote it, because this is an ARC. But, basically it's that there's not always a clear line between the predator and the victim. Relationships are complicated and you can grow by being in a damaging relationship, as well as a healthy one. Good people can make bad decisions, and get too deep into improper situations before they realize it.
I love how the book's title ties into the story. I won't tell you how, but it's a totally appropriate title, and I appreciate it. I think this is one for more mature, high school age teens. The subject matter is somewhat disturbing, but those who are ready and enjoy realistic "problem" novels will be enthralled with this one.
Published by Carolrhoda Books, February 1, 2012
eBook ARC obtained from NetGalley
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