Evie, whose real name is terrible enough that you don’t find out what it is until more than halfyway through the novel, is a different kind of kid. Until recently, she’s been homeschooled. Actually, it’s more like she’s been unschooled. She and her mom (no dad) are a little bit eclectic, living in a dome home, moving periodically as her mother’s “fight the man” soul gets tired of retail jobs. Evie decides to spend her final year of high school in, well, high school to see what the fuss is all about — a great social experiment, she says. And she makes two friends, Jacinda and Rajas, and learns about friendship, love, and overthrowing The Man in the process. (That is a really terrible summary for a really excellent book. There’s a great interview with the author here, and it includes a nice summary.)
Anyhow, the number one reason I just loved this novel is because it’s a young adult novel that doesn’t play down to teenagers. I am constantly disappointed by books that “dumb down” their protagonists, or create a way too simple, sugary-sweet plot. I am not anti-love or any-funny. I’m just anti-teenagers-are-dumb. This book proves that you can be funny, and have a love interest, and still be smart. Gasp! Shock!
Evie is smart. She’s well-read, she’s perceptive — mostly — and she’s still a real teenager. (I also cannot stand books where teenagers are portrayed as brilliant geniuses. Sure some of them are, but I think it’s kind of alienating. The total opposite of the sugary-sweet books. But I digress. Evie, in her passion to make a different and give students a voice, starts a proverbial riot and finds out what it’s like to exist in a world where you essentially have no rights, and what it feels like to have everyone turned against her. And all of this? Yeah, it comes across in well-written dialogue. Nicely constructed narratives. A fun structure. It reminds me a lot of the books I loved in high school (but were just a tad outdated, like The Cat Ate My Gymsuit and There’s A Bat in Bunk Five). There’s a superb mix of seriousness, smartness, and a touch of funny in all of the right places. I could actually see this being easily incorporated into a high school English curriculum.
This was the kind of book I just wanted to keep reading, and when it ended, I was disappointed. Not because the ending sucked — it didn’t! — but because I wasn’t ready for the book to be over. Cannot say enough good things about this book!