by: Hannah Harrington
Harlequin Enterprises Limited Don Mills, Ontario Canada 2012
Although there were points in this book where the parent in me cringed, this is teen fiction at its best. The story is told from the point of view of the teens, and it reads true. There aren’t lectures and the moral message remains an honest gray. There are rewards for “bad” behavior and consequences for “good” that any high school student would recognize.
Chelsea, the main character, is very talented at maintaining her status as BFF of the Queen Bee of the High School, Kristen. She has a knack for finding “dirt” on her fellow students and she can’t keep a secret. Then at Kristen’s unsupervised New Year’s party a very drunk Chelsea walks in on a classmate (Noah) in bed – with another boy.
Chelsea’s inability to keep a secret, compounded by her drunkenness, has her thoughtlessly outing the boys. When Kristen’s boyfriend’s promise to “talk to him” becomes the beating that sends Noah to the hospital in a coma, Chelsea has to accept her responsibility. She chooses to tell her parents, and the police, what happened and also chooses to stop speaking. Her mouth gets her into too much trouble.
The bulk of the novel addresses Chelsea’s struggles when school starts back up. She predictably looses her status and can’t or won’t speak in her own defense. She is bullied very much the same way she used to bully her classmates. It’s eye-opening.
The “odd” students who are willing to give Chelsea a chance believe she did the right thing going to the police. But it’s not an easy acceptance. These are also the students who are Noah’s best friends.
The story covers mean girls, privileged jocks, closeted students and the fantasy and reality of finding love as a teen. Surprisingly it manages to stay focused, always coming back to Chelsea and her choices. The characters may fall into classic social groups but they are not stereotypes.
The adults do not play a large role in the narrative, but they are present. They miss a lot because they are distracted not because they are uncaring or inept. Chelsea’s parents protect her as best they can from the legal implications of coming forward. Chelsea’s teachers may have agenda’s at cross purposes from Chelsea’s but they are fathomable and reasonable.
It really is a surprisingly good book. Chances are any parent will find something that the kids do that they don’t approve of. Chances are any teen will recognize all the characters in their own school setting.