Three high school students who barely know each other are wrestling with problems: Joshua, who defines himself as queer, at home lives with a religious stepfather who won’t accept it and at school goes from being bullied by classmates to becoming invisible after he publicly comes out; Brenna, who is Latina and one of the few people of color on campus, gets a year’s respite from discrimination because her boyfriend is a popular rich white boy but then struggles when he moves on to someone else; and Callie, whose mom is dying of cancer, struggles with depression and finds it hard to maintain normal relationships with her friends and especially with her mom and dad.
All three live in the small town of Mercer, Illinois, where a tornado in 1961 ripped through a drive-in movie, killing many of the town’s teenagers and leaving a legacy of sadness and loss among those who remained behind. Now fifty years later, another tornado sweeps through the very same spot. Afterwards, peculiar things are noticed, including a vintage VW bus found in a cornfield, an old Pontiac left alongside a highway, and the appearance of people with connections dating back to the time of the first tornado. These new people focus on helping Joshua, Brenna and Callie–who become an unusual trio of best friends–navigate their personal crises and, while doing so, resolve their own existential problems.
This is such a fine book about finding your true self and your place in the world, learning to address others’ misconceptions about you in a loving, understanding and forgiving way, and accepting challenges that ultimately forge your character into one that is strong and resilient. The writing is sublime. There is some profanity, some sexual references, some descriptions of violence and abuse, but this book will resonate with most YA readers.
[As a side note, readers who like this book may also like the THE GONE AWAY PLACE by Christopher Barzak, a similarly-themed novel which we reviewed in 2018.]
Categories: Body Acceptance, Books We Recommend, Bullying, Controversial YA Topics, Death and Grieving, Depression, Diversity, Domestic Abuse in YA Fiction, Dysfunctional Relationships, Grief, LGBTQIA, Mysteries, Natural Disasters, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Racism, Rock Musicians, Sexual Abuse of Children in YA Fiction, Social Media, Step-Parenting in YA Fiction, Supernatural/Occult