Seventeen-year-old Skylar Thompson is being questioned by the police. Her boyfriend, Jimmy, stands accused of brutally assaulting two young El Salvadoran immigrants from a neighboring town, and she’s the prime witness. Skylar is keeping quiet about what she’s seen, but how long can she keep it up?Jimmy’s accomplice, Sean, is facing his own moral quandary. He’s out on bail and has been offered a plea in exchange for testifying against Jimmy. Sean must decide whether or not to turn on his friend in order to save himself. But most important, both he and Skylar need to figure out why they would follow someone like Jimmy in the first place.
Let me start this off by saying that for almost this entire book, I loathed Skylar. I loathed her even more than her dumb friend, Lisa Marie. Skylar is the epitome of the clueless, obtuse, casually racist mentality spreading across our nation. I understand that Jimmy was there for her when her mother died, but she is ruled and controlled by her love for him. Everything is, “Jimmy said” or “Jimmy thinks.” I DON’T CARE ABOUT JIMMY. I already know he killed a man, and so do you! I want Skylar to break out of this insulated, sheltered existence and get out of Long Island. I knew people like her in high school, and maybe I was just in a more diverse environment, but I hated kids like her and never associated with them. Why would I? This girl is a whining, willfully ignorant jerk for a good two-thirds of the book! I’m trying to be sympathetic, but I can’t imagine just listening to and believing someone who calls an entire race of people “parasites.” How could she be so clueless?
This book is so rough. It’s told from multiple points of view, so not only do you get to see inside Skylar and Sean’s heads, you also get to see inside the head of Carlos Cortez, the brother of the man Jimmy killed. We get a glimpse into Carlos’ mother’s head. It’s horrible and heartbreaking, and it will make you cry. This book is a lot like Shine by Lauren Myracle, but without a heroine who knows right from wrong. (Skylar doesn’t say something worthwhile until the eighty-nine percent mark!)
Sean is much more relateable to me than Skylar. He’s hurting and he’s remorseful and he can’t sleep. He wants to talk about it, but Skylar is a freaking zombie and Lisa Marie just keeps saying, “everyone knows. No one’s talking.” When I got to the last ten percent of the book, I was practically screaming for someone to come forward. Skylar wants to run away. We haven’t seen Lisa Marie for a few chapters. Everyone’s parents are turning a blind eye to this sort of thing. It’s sick and sad, it’s hard to read. Almost impossible. I had to loose a lot of rage on twitter over this book and its characters.
This book is good. The characters are real, and easy to hate for what they did, but they also have layers (though we’re told more than shown these layers). As much as I don’t understand these kids or their views, these things do happen. No matter how much I want to strangle Skylar, she’s had a rough year.
But I still hated every single character in this book. I would never read it again, but I’m glad I did, because this book was heartwrenching and beautiful, in it’s own way.