Author: Charlie Price
Publication: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (October 30, 2012)
Description: As their hardscrabble lives intertwine in a small, corrupt Montana town, Grace, a scheming runaway, JJ, her drifty fostercare sister, and Mick, the son of a petty thief, discover the body of a young woman. Afraid to come forward, the teens try to hide their knowledge of the crime, because they believe the murderer is one of the corrupt officials and businessmen who rule their town. But after a series of false moves and dumb mistakes, the teens are soon suspects themselves in a murder investigation threatening their freedom—and maybe their lives.
My Thoughts: This is a hard one to talk about. I didn't really like one of the main characters. Grace was abused by her older brothers, ignored by her mother when she told her about it, and has run away from home. She finally runs out of money when she gets to Portage, Montana. In Portage she runs into an "old boy" network that finds her a place to live with a drugged out marijuana salesman, his alcoholic wife and son with fetal alcohol syndrome. They also find her a job working in the cafe and cleaning the motel. Soon she is involved in finding out local secrets and scamming the people the "old boys" set her on.
Also living there is JJ who is the niece of the wife and who is reacting to her living situation by concentrating on school athletics and creating fantasies about the moon. Living next door is Mick whose father is a petty thief on the run after the last town got too hot for him. This isn't the first time this has happened to Mick and his dad either. All Mick really wants is a home, a family, and a place where he can stay and be a normal kid.
These three misfits hang out together and band together against the school bullies. There is some tension withing the threesome as JJ is interested in Mick who is interested in Grace and Grace is only interested in making enough money to move on and be independent. These three are swimming one day when they stumble on the body of a young woman. At first they decide to pretend it never happened as none of their home lives could bear the scrutiny of a police investigation. But Mick calls 911 from a payphone and trouble follows.
Watching each of the three as they deal with the consequences of their discovery and as they learn about themselves was interesting. I liked seeing JJ come into her own and show that she wasn't the dreamy character she seemed like at the beginning. I like how Mick realized that he could go alone and didn't have to keep following after her law-breaking father.
What I didn't like was how Grace really didn't change. She was still looking for a way to scam the system at the end of the story as she had in the beginning. The only real change was that she had more tools for the scamming as the result of her experiences in Portage. She was still willing to betray or double-cross anyone if it looked like it would benefit her.
This was an interesting mystery though the "whodunnit" wasn't as important as the maneuvering and various conspiracies that were uncovered about the town. Fans of realistic fiction who like stories about kids in tough situations will enjoy this one.
"Damn! What's with you, Mick? All about you? Something's the matter with JJ!"I received this ARC from Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. You can buy your copy here.
"Yeah, and something's the matter with me. You use me! Pick me up whenever you need something." Mick could hear a whine in his voice and didn't like it. Went on. "I drove you here. You didn't contribute shit. Said I was a danger, and left me. Didn't show up when you said. Yeah, it's about me. You treat me like dirt. You would have split again today if I hadn't caught you."