Jacob Higgins’s teenage rage rarely simmers below the surface for long. He despises his negligent mother and her alcoholic boyfriend, Refrigerator Man, and he’s indifferent to school and his friends — though a little less casual about girls and marijuana. His antics have landed him in a North Virginia detention center, where nihilism, freedom, and redemption all take on unexpected guises. In a voice filled with confusion, yearning, and sardonic humor, Jacob narrates his improbably sweet romance with Andrea, an inmate with whom he shares rare glances, melodramatic conversation, and waxy cookies at rigidly chaperoned “socials.” But when David, a mysterious, conniving adolescent, handpicks him to assist in a plot to bring about the center’s demise, Jacob has to weigh the frail new optimism of his relationship with Andrea against the allure of destruction, rebellion, and escape.
In her pitch-perfect debut, Emma Rathbone adroitly captures the drama, both comic and deadly serious, of growing up.