When her best friend, whom she secretly loves, betrays her and then dies under mysterious circumstances, high school senior Vera Dietz struggles with secrets that could help clear his name.
Vera was a troubling character for some book club members. She's had a rough time over the years: her mother took off for Vegas when Vera was twelve, her dad has very strict ideas about how teenagers should pay for themselves (by getting a full-time job ASAP), and Vera's been keeping secrets for her best friend Charlie for YEARS. So, yes, Vera's struggling, and she makes some heavy mistakes in her choice of coping mechanisms.
BUT: Vera changes. She makes mistakes, she does the wrong things, and she ignores signs she shouldn't, just like we all have. What makes Vera awesome is the way she works towards righting her wrongs without compromising who she is.
This story, with its grief and death and guilt and humor and strangeness, led us down all sorts of thought-provoking paths. We talked about abuse, about magical realism, about rape culture, about third-person omniscient narration, about littering (and its environmental impact), and about the utter wrongness of 'blaming the victim'.
RUN to the library to pick up a copy of this beautiful, funny, and sad novel. Already shed some tears over it? Why not try one of these similar titles?
Shine by Lauren Myracle. When her best friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover the culprits in her small North Carolina town.
The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney. When Alex, a junior at an elite preparatory school, realizes that she may have been the victim of date rape, she confides in her roommates and sister who convince her to seek help from a secret society, the Mockingbirds.
The Perfect Shot by Elaine Marie Alphin. Brian uses basketball to block out memories of his girlfriend and her family who were gunned down a year ago, but the upcoming murder trial and a high school history assignment force him to face the past and decide how far he should go to see justice served. Includes facts about miscarriages of justice in American history.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. A traumatic event near the end of the summer has a devastating effect on Melinda's freshman year in high school.