It’s their senior year and life is supposed to be exciting and open to endless possibilities. However, Nadia and Merissa are struggling through some dangerous battles. First, they are facing their senior year without their best friend, Tink. What makes it even harder is that they don’t even know why Tink killed herself. She didn’t even say goodbye, except for a generic text message. But then, Tink never did share the intimate stuff of her life, nor did she promise to be available for her friends’ tough issues either. That’s just the way Tink was. Unfortunately, Nadia and Marissa have a few secrets of their own.
"This contemporary novel by Joyce Carol Oates is extremely intense, painful to read and vividly real, almost too real. The author confronts quite a few serious issues including anorexia, cutting, date rape and suicide, and does so with raw honesty and sincere respect for those suffering."
Nadia appears to be carefree and a bit ditzy. No one really takes her seriously except her science teacher, Mr. Kessler. He listens to her and encourages her to participate in class discussions. His kindness, plus the fact that he’s only in his twenties and rather handsome, probably all contributed to Nadia developing deep feelings for him. So far, he doesn’t suspect it, but then Nadia dares to take her crush out of hiding. She desperately hopes that this potential relationship will somehow make up for her painful past: for when her mother disappeared, for when that guy slipped something in her drink and raped her.
Merissa appears to have it all: she’s popular, smart, beautiful, and just recently found out that she’s received early admission to Brown University. She should have an amazing senior year ahead of her. But there’s another side of her that no one sees, the one where her parents are getting divorced, the one where she rarely eats anything, the one where she cuts. The cutting gives her a sense of control, a pleasurable high. She’s extremely careful not to leave any signs, not to bleed in the open. So far the shallow cuts are enough, but sometimes, when things get really bad, she’s tempted to follow Tink down the same toxic path towards death.
This contemporary novel by Joyce Carol Oates is extremely intense, painful to read and vividly real, almost too real. The author confronts quite a few serious issues including anorexia, cutting, date rape and suicide, and does so with raw honesty and sincere respect for those suffering. Her writing style is ingenious for the tale, a bit random and sporadic, emulating the racing thoughts of deeply troubled souls. She also plays with the point of view. Writing in the third person for Merissa’s view in the first part and Nadia’s view for the third, she also uses first person for Tink’s view and also for one of Tink’s friends.
This novel is an achingly brilliant example of how anybody, the gal next door, or the seemingly perfect teen, could actually be suffering in silence, burdened with painful secrets. Some secrets just shouldn’t be kept quiet.
Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on September 21, 2012