The jacket flap of this book says it’s for those who have experienced “the wonderful, treacherous, consuming, meaningful world of true friendship.” With that in mind, I think I expected something profound, something deep, something … less angst-ridden. But then, it is a teen novel, and angst is the name of the game.
Bea Szabo has moved to Baltimore for her senior year. She’s moved a lot — her dad is a serial one-year-college-appointment professor — and so has some expectations about her new school. Then the alphabet conspires — the students have to sit in alphabetical order for assembly — to put her next to Jonah Tate, a.k.a. Ghost Boy, who hasn’t made a new friend since third grade. See, his mother and twin brother died in a car wreck, and he’s basically shut down. That is, until he meets Bea. Together these two loners find some kind of solace together in their not-quite-boyfriend/girlfriend-but-somehow-more-than-just-friends relationship. There are ups — the late-night call-in show that they both listen to, or the trip to Ocean City in lieu of prom. And there are downs — if you’re not really boyfriend/girlfriend, is it okay to go out with other people? Not to mention the fights and disagreements.
Standiford takes us on an interesting, if angst-filled, journey with these two. There are humorous moments, and the overall story arc, especially involving Jonah’s family, is intriguing. Unfortunately, it was one of those books where I just couldn’t divorce myself from my age and experience: I kept shaking my head because the two of them acted like the kids they are. Sure, I empathized: who hasn’t had an up-and-down relationship with someone, wondering if they’ll talk to you, wanting to help but being powerless. I understand feeling deeply, wanting more, and I even understand heartbreak. I just thought this all was a bit overmuch.
I have no problem with angst. But then, too much of a good thing is always bad.
Rated: High, for language and teen drinking and drug use.