Seventeen-year-old River doesn’t know what to do with himself when Penny, the girl he adores, breaks up with him. He lives in LA, where nobody walks anywhere, and Penny was his ride; he never bothered getting a license. He’s stuck. He’s desperate. Okay . . . he’s got to learn to drive.
But first, he does the unthinkable—he starts walking. He stumbles upon a support group for teens with various addictions. He fakes his way into the meetings, and begins to connect with the other kids, especially an amazing girl. River wants to tell the truth, but he can’t stop lying, and his tangle of deception may unravel before he learns how to handle the most potent drug of all: true love.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Marijuana
Booklist (May 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 18))
Grades 8-11. River is thrown into a tailspin when his girlfriend, Penny, breaks up with him. Life was easy with Penny: he was so madly in love, he just followed Penny’s agenda. He never even learned to drive—why bother when Penny had a car? When Penny decides she needs someone with a little more, well, drive, readers might sympathize with her. But so, too, will they feel charmed by River’s spot-on narration, blunt self-appraisal, and wry commentary on high school and family life. Floundering and heartbroken—and now walking everywhere—River wanders in on a “Second Chance” session, a storefront support group that, it turns out, serves students with addiction issues. But the kids there intrigue him, especially a girl named Daphne, and River makes up a story to justify joining their group. A fairly contrived plot twist ramps up the action later, but this is more than a lively rom-com with smart dialogue. Reinhardt constructs a character who, haltingly, rebuilds himself in believable ways as he confronts family trauma, lost love, and growing up.
Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2016)
In an ill-advised effort to set his life straight, 17-year-old River Dean fakes a weed addiction and joins a support group for teens. Senior year takes a sour turn for the white teen. Penny Brockaway ends their relationship during a boat trip for his lack of self-reflection. “You just follow along and do what you think you’re supposed to.” Wandering Los Angeles in a post-breakup daze, River stumbles across a sign: A Second Chance. It refers him to a self-help group, where addictions range from shoplifting to Molly. Believing it’ll benefit him in his case with Penny, River feigns an addiction to enlist in the group. “I was taking action. I was doing something.” Readers may often find it hard to accept or even like River. Though an absent-father subplot unearths some pathos, his manipulation of the group, obsession with Penny, and obliviousness to his own privilege crush any goodwill. Aside from the loss of Penny, River attempts to reconcile with his estranged friends, whom he’s previously neglected. On top of that, he must get his driver’s license, since “everybody knows that nobody walks in LA.” As he explores a new relationship with a girl from the support group and remakes his life, he finds it difficult to balance his lies. “Penny was right about me. I didn’t think about things,” he realizes, a valuable epiphany that nevertheless exposes the story’s weakness. The novel ends in a buoyant mood, perhaps not entirely earned. (Fiction. 14-18)
About the Author
Her website is www.danareinhardt.net.
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