This was so ridiculously good, I was glued to the book from the first to the last page and the prologue is an absolute wrecking ball! The book was a bit different from what I expected from the premise, I thought it would be more like a thriller about the disappearances of juvenile delinquents and Story’s time in jail, but I guess I misread the blurb, my bad. It turned out to be very psychological/sociological and it was a good surprise.
This is a coming of age story to the extreme. Why to the extreme? The specific living situation of the main character in this book, Story, is far from normal, so she doesn’t have the “standard” teen struggles and angst, no she has to survive her environment and at the same time try to build a better future. I mostly read romances or books with a romance storyline in it, so I want to point out that there is no romance in this book. The main character has a girlfriend, but this only plays a very minor part in the story. I didn’t miss it at all though.
The book is written in first person, almost entirely from Story’s POV. She’s fifteen and stuck in Lakeview, a town in Michigan that was once thriving due to the car industry, but declined after said industry disappeared, leaving only poverty and high drug and crime rates. Story was raised by her grandmother as her mother is a drug addict. But when her grandmother died two years previous, she started living with her mother in a rundown trailer park. Even though her mother is currently sober, she is not a suitable responsible parent. Story is a sweet kid and very intelligent and her goal is to find a way out, to have a chance at a better future. When she hears about a program that scouts teens with potential in jail and removes them from society to place them in an elite school, she sees this as her chance to get out and decides to commit a crime to be send to jail.
While I don’t want to say too much about the story, I do want to say that the book focuses mainly on the relation between Story and her mother and the choices Story is confronted with. I thought that especially the personality of her mother was exceptionally well written (even when you only see it from Story’s POV). She is a narcissist and has the IQ level of a genius, which she uses to manipulate people including Story, and she’s not willing to let Story go and make something of herself.
The scouting program is the other side of the story you see. It is led by lottery winner and billionaire Char, who wants to help youth that probably never would get any chances in life, and again I was surprised how well I got these insights with only the POV from Story. Roberts has a background in education and it is clear that she has experience with situations like the one from Story. These situations are heartbreaking and frustrating and there is not always a solution and this complexity is elegantly shown in this book by experiencing it instead of getting preachy.
This book paints a picture of the bleak parts of society in a gripping coming of age story. It’s sad, frustrating and angsty, but even under the miserable circumstances there are also moments of happiness and hope. Extremely well written and I definitely recommend reading this book! And on that note, can we have a sequel?
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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