Book eight of the 48-hour Book Challenge binge! I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, but award committee reading and library books with other people on the hold list have taken precedence. (And thank you again, Robin, for getting me an ARC!)
Dante doesn’t really have any friends at her new high school. Last year, she didn’t need to–she had her best friend Beth, who, though no-one else knew, became her girlfriend. that was when Dante was still Emily, before she changed her name legally. She tells her mocking English teacher that she picked her new name because high school is hell. That goes over about as well as you would expect. Though it’s not the real reason, Dante has a lot to deal with right now. Her mom is fussing about her attitutde and that she’s cut off all her hair, and has signed her up for a social skills group for teenage girls. Beth has cut off all contact. Her English teacher is a bully, and her school is full of brain-dead stereotypes. But then a strange girl shows up at school, and mutely slips her a note reading “WOOF, WOOF. YOU ARE NOT A DOG. WHY ARE YOU GOING TO OBEDIENCE SCHOOL?” Dante is fascinated by both the girl, Parker, and the note. She quickly becomes drawn into Parker and her friends’ anti-authoritarian hijinxs. But as time goes on, Dante begins to see that Parker’s boyfriend is abusive, and may be willing to go much further to change the world than anyone else suspects.
I think this is probably the strongest of Robin Stevenson’s books that I’ve read so far–she’s really cut down on the number of themes and subplots in this one, which makes for a much stronger story overall. Fortuitously, it’s also got the coolest cover–although I’m not taking A Thousand Shades of Blue into consideration since I haven’t read it yet. It’s nice to see a book with a gay teenager protagonist where her orientation is essential to who she is and to the plot, but it’s not a coming-out story. The tension and the stakes mount as the story progressses, and the characters are all unique, believable individuals. It left me wanting more of Dante’s story at the end, but not in an unfinished way–which is a good thing.