Sixteen year old Tessa is a star student and violinist and has a great future ahead of her - until, that is, one terrible decision changes her future forever. Her legal sentence is sizeable, but it is nothing compared to the open hostility she experiences from the people in her small town every day. As Tessa works through her required tasks, she discovers more about herself and her desires, finding herself on a different path than she ever expected. I experienced this story markedly differently than I might have had I read it only a few weeks earlier; after the fires in Northern Colorado tore through the homes of friends and family, I felt a stronger connection to both Tessa and the victims of the events in this story. I loved both the delivery of the book and its characters, and I highly recommend it to fans of contemporary young adult literature. Please read my full review below!
Even after spending a lifetime doing the right things, one bad decision can dramatically alter the trajectory of one’s future. Sixteen year old Tessa has recently moved to the small town of Elmsville after her parents’ divorce, and she is struggling to find a place for herself. Though she is good at volleyball and does well in school, her group of friends is not exactly the one she left behind in Portland. When a shopping trip takes an unexpected turn, Tessa finds herself in the middle of the woods where she makes a choice that will change her life forever. Picking up the pieces is not easy, and it requires more than the efforts of Tessa alone to help her find her way again.
This compelling novel is not only well written but it also presents a story that engages readers from start to finish. Tessa begins as a character who is lost and who tries to rely on others to guide her through life. But when she does not choose to take charge of her own behavior, it spirals out of control in myriad different ways. Complex familial relationships, budding romance, and inclusions of depression, drugs, and alcohol paint a vivid and layered tableau of teenage existence. Though Tessa makes a choice that ultimately affects hundreds of lives, she is, at her core, a teenager who has made a mistake and who must come to terms with the results of her actions even when doing so is challenging.
Fans of John Green will embrace Tessa and her experience, especially because she remains approachable and empathetic despite her destructive actions. Throughout the novel, both Tessa and her mother exhibit behaviors that reflect the regret and depression they feel due to the events that have taken place in their lives. A note at the end of the book offers assistance to people who find themselves in similar situations, providing both examples of characters seeking help when they need it as well as useful resources for readers who may be struggling. This story tugs at all the right heartstrings and is a pleasure to read; it is a captivating addition to library collections for young adult readers.
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