January 29, 2007
Zarr's involving yet somewhat anti-climactic debut opens with a bang as Deanna Lambert recalls the moment that caused everything in her life to change: "I was thirteen when my dad caught me with Tommy Webber in the back of Tommy's Buick." Following this incident with the then 17-year-old boy, Deanna is shunned by her father and labeled "the school slut" by her peers. In her small town, the tag sticks, and continues to define Deanna's life for the next three years. Now 16, she lands a summer job only to discover that Tommy works at the same place. But seeing him sparks flashbacks, and through them Zarr give readers insight into how Deanna was drawn to Tommy, and the complicated feelings the teen experienced ("I don't mean anything corny like I fell in love.... It was more a feeling like when I'd get picked first for volleyball"). The author credibly explores Deanna's confusion about how good it feels to be with Tommy and her thoughts that she should be feeling something else. The narrative is less credible when she erupts at her best (girl)friend, Lee—paving the way for Deanna to kiss her longtime best friend, Jason (who is also Lee's boyfriend)—and also when Deanna confronts Tommy after a makeout session. Although the loose ends are tied up at the end, readers may find Deanna's character somewhat contradictory. But Zarr convincingly creates a teen trapped by small-minded people in a small town. Ages 12-up.