School was the same sort of hell every day.
After a bad break-up and an ugly sexting incident, Dylan Mahoney is an instant pariah. She finds refuge in surfing the Internet, stumbling on the blogs of homeschooled fundamentalist Christian girls, quickly becoming obsessed with their clean, wholesome lives free of the kind of confusion and regret she feels. She makes herself a part of their world, blogging as “Faith”, sharing invented stories of her fictional life. Dylan even manages to get herself invited to visit Abigail – one of the most popular bloggers – at home. Abigail’s life is clearly more complicated than her blog suggests, and Dylan has to quickly decide whether to keep hiding behind “Faith” or to come clean about who she really is.
Worlds collide in this YA novel. In Dylan’s hyperconnected but emotionally distant home, both Mom and Dad are focused on their careers, hardly aware of anything going on in their children’s lives, trusting them to make good choices and somehow shocked when Dylan makes a bad decision. On Abigail’s family homestead, Mama is never far from the kitchen, while Daddy makes decisions for all the family members.
These are extremes, of course, but hardly outside the realm of possibility. Quiverfull families pop up in the news from time to time (usually when Michelle Duggar announces another pregnancy), and the Dean family is pretty clearly in that mold. (A quick web search will also net you a handful of blogs remarkably similar in tone to Abigail’s.) Meanwhile, Dylan’s workaholic parents’ dependence on overscheduling and/or nanny-care for their kids reflects a pretty common modern suburban set-up.
Despite their initial characterization as polar opposites, though, Dylan and Abigail are, of course, more alike than either would have thought. A striking example comes in their respective reactions to certain events. After topless pictures of Dylan and a video of her tirade against her ex-boyfriend go viral, the entire school body heaps daily abuse on her, she blames herself, saying, “The thing is, I deserved it. Even though I still couldn’t admit it out loud, I knew for certain that I deserved everything that came to me. I had been so stupid.”
Abigail’s echoes the self-blame when talking about an older man putting his hands on her, insisting that maybe she did something to make him do it. That incident, too, tells a lot about the safe and sheltered life Dylan believes Abigail leads.
Interestingly, the one thing Dylan never seems to quite realize is that when she hopped on a bus to meet her Internet friend, she could very well have found someone entirely different waiting for her at the station. (Kids: don’t try this at home.) Of course, that would have been a very different sort of book, too.
This is an engaging story about friendship and loyalty, belief and confusion, and figuring out which path to take. You know, the things teens are thinking about every day. Bloss uses a light touch in this girl-centered contemporary realistic fiction all the way through the hopeful conclusion. Recommended for 9th grade and up (due to language and references to sexual situations).
Friendship, loyalty, and honesty are the heart of this girl-centered light contemporary realistic novel.
Checked out from my public library