336p. ebook available. Putnam. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399175909.
Gr 9 Up—Tessa hangs out with her best friend Juliette, can be seen on the arm of her star football player boyfriend, and often hooks up with unknown guys in other towns, just far enough from the prying eyes of her own classmates. She knows full well that she's walking a dangerous line but can't seem to find any other escape from her drunken stepfather and her controlling grandmother. At her core, Tessa is an artist. She feels it in every inch of her being. But that doesn't match up with Grandma Leighton's plans for her. Jack just moved to town. He, too, shows the wider world only a small piece of himself and wears his reputation as a master prankster and authority "bucker" on his sleeve. Yet when he goes home at night, he assumes his self-prescribed primary role in life, his mother's caregiver. His mom always had mental health issues and a drinking problem, but when her negligence caused Jack's brother's death, she was no longer able to keep it from unraveling her law career and marriage. Despite the dark underbelly and potential for gratuitousness, this is a well-crafted, sweet story of Tessa's and Jack's ability to bring out the best in the other. Both are fully realized, nuanced characters, and while their journeys to redemption are filled with some plot points that almost teeter on the edge of contrived, the tale works well.
VERDICT Recommend this debut novel to fans of Ellen Hopkins.

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