If this is really a first novel, Ms. Thomas is going to make a lot of us would-be writers work harder. The characters (and each’s “authentic” voice) are deeply felt, as are the descriptions of the appalling situation that makes the bulk of the story. The slow build-up to the (literally) explosive climax is so well-handled that I read the whole second half in one sitting; like the characters, I found no place to rest. (Also I haven’t shed this many tears over a YA book since Jerry Spinelli’s heartbreaking “Stargirl”, which this book references in the name of the narrator.) But this is more than a well-written piece of fiction. It is a call to activism against the intolerable plight of some members of our society. It’s shocking in places, and has a lot of “bad” language – but that’s part of the point and I think it must be read.

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