Life is complicated for sixteen-year-old Suzette. She’s returned from boarding school on the East Coast to spend the summer with her family in California, and has a lot to figure out about herself and her life before returning to school in September. Unsure of her sexuality, unsure whether she still has a place among her old friends, unsure whether she can stand up for herself in complex situations where there is subtle and not-so-subtle bias, Suzette seems to be on shaky ground.
It’s not easy being black and a serious Jew — a combination her peers don’t understand. It’s not easy crushing on an old guy friend and, at the same time, crushing on a new girlfriend — especially when her brother likes the same girl. Most terrifying of all, her beloved stepbrother has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and is making some dangerous choices. He has sworn Suzette to secrecy and her loyalty is being tested.
What is faith and trust in another all about? When does fear of betrayal give way to common sense? Suzette faces moral dilemmas that begin to frighten and overwhelm her. She is sure of absolutely nothing at all.
This gripping, well-told story makes the reader ache for the protagonist and pray for a good resolution, even while knowing that a happy ending is not possible. Realistically portrayed characters with nuanced emotions make this book an excellent choice for readers ages 14 to 18.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.