By Ilsa J. Bick
Things will be different at Turing High School, Jenna’s controlling father assures her. At Turing High, no one will know that Jenna has a history of cutting herself, that she has been hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, that her father is a bully who is having an extra-marital affair, or that her mother is an alcoholic. Jenna can remake herself anew at Turing; but will she take this opportunity to heal, or will she become a shadow and write letters to her brother who is serving in Iraq? From the start Jenna’s character has difficulty blending into the shadows. In fact, Jenna seems to be a magnet for dysfunction; it quickly becomes apparent that Jenna has been a victim her entire life, from authorities, friends, and even family. At Turing, nothing really changes. She becomes the enemy of an equally confused student, Danielle, who is jealous of the relationship that develops between Jenna and the chemistry teacher, Mr. Anderson. Jenna is betrayed by family, friends, and her home life deteriorates at a rapid-fire pace; yet, Jenna’s life seems to be on the mend with the help of Mr. Anderson. It doesn’t take a psychologist (did I mention that Bick is a psychiatrist?) to see where the slow, but engaging plot is taking the reader—a modern-day Lolita, with edginess that parallel’s R.A. Nelson’s Teach Me—the reader groans to see Jenna fall prey once again—or does she? Although it seems every character in the story is severely broken in some way, which comes off as mildy annoying, the ending, laced with just enough truth and unanswered questions to make the reader crazy, makes up for the and melodramatic characters. In fact, while the pacing is slow during the first half of the novel, this work is perhaps the most honest, and disturbing tale about dysfunctional relationships that I have ever read.