Growing up in a small town, with small-minded neighbours and over-protective parents, Agnes has always felt constricted. With Agnes being the younger daughter, and legally blind, her parents find a myriad of ways to micro-manage her life. And for the most part Agnes has been fine with that.
Until Bo Dickinson comes onto the scene. Bo is wild, carefree, and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. As far as the town is concerned, the Dickinson name is mud. Drugs and violence seems to be the family’s legacy, made worse by the vicious rumours that Bo’s classmates and townsfolk spread. Despite it all Bo is brazen and brave. She stands tall even as people continue to throw slurs at her. She is everything that Agnes wishes she could be, but didn’t know she longed for.
It all starts off with a school project, as many unlikely high school friendships do. Soon, Agnes and Bo start spending more time together. Agnes finds that she’s finally able to have discussions she’s never had previously with her friends, and find the freedom to be herself. She begins to see her life with a new perspective.
Kody Keplinger weaves an engaging story while tackling some important issues of prejudice, family, and friendship. My favourite part is, unsurprisingly, the strong friendship between the two main characters. They immediately gel, and their story reads exactly like those rare, easy friendships that grow in school. While they have each others’ backs, there are also moments of friction. The girls are flawed, judgments are made, and arguments break out.
When it seems as if Bo’s problems have reached an impossible climax, the girls concoct a plan – drive across town to locate her father in the hopes that he might be able to help. Knowing that Agnes’s parents will never agree with such an idea, the girls decide to act on the escape plan themselves.
The girl’s impulsive road trip is chronicled in realistic snapshots, with the history of their friendship interwoven as flashbacks. This makes for an interesting look at how their friendship has progressed. Agnes sacrifices some of her previous life in the wake of her new friendship, but she also benefits enormously.
The one thing I found hard to believe was the forced romantic subplot between Agnes, and Bo’s cousin and stand-in older brother, Colt. It seemed to be thrown in for the sake of it, and didn’t particularly add to the story in a significant way.
Keplinger keeps the novel light and engaging, despite dealing with some heavy issues. The story is believable in the way it deals with adolescents, and their struggle with home and school life. It’s an entertaining read, and one teens will enjoy for the strong friendship it portrays.