Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Random House Canada
First Published: January 10, 2017
First Line: "Cally Broderick lingered in the doorway of the resource office, waiting to be noticed."
Book Description from GoodReads: A captivating debut novel for readers of Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You and Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth unleashes an unforgettable cast of characters into a realm known for its cruelty and peril: the American high school.
In an idyllic community of wealthy California families, new teacher Molly Nicoll becomes intrigued by the hidden lives of her privileged students. Unknown to Molly, a middle school tragedy in which they were all complicit continues to reverberate for her kids: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own. Theirs is a world in which every action may become public postable, shareable, indelible. With the rare talent that transforms teenage dramas into compelling and urgent fiction, Lindsey Lee Johnson makes vivid a modern adolescence lived in the gleam of the virtual, but rich with the sorrow, passion, and beauty of life in any time, and at any age.
My Rating: 3/5 stars
My Review: This book focuses on the lives of a select group of teenagers in an upper-class suburb of San Francisco as they move from middle school into high school. While it's set in beautiful California the experiences of these teens, and one of their teachers, are less than ideal as readers get glimpses into their lives and their own unique sets of problems.
The story is told using multiple POVs with each character getting their own chapter. When combined, these shorter scenes tell the bigger story of this group of teens who seem to have it all - including seemingly unlimited funds and no parental supervision.
Johnson touches on many serious issues plaguing today's teens - the influence of social media, peer pressure, bullying, the pressure to succeed, drugs/alcohol, lack of connection with parents etc. That's a lot of issues and honestly, it felt like she may have taken on too many issues for one book.
Johnson's writing is good and she pulled me into her world, but I had hoped for more complexity and depth to the story lines and characters as well as less predictable endings. Several of her characters verged on clichés (with Miss Nichols, the idealistic and naive teacher being the most frustrating). With only being given a small number of pages to tell each of their stories, unfortunately I can't say that I was invested in any of their lives.
I had a love/hate relationship with this book. While teen angst and (too?) many issues are brought to light that affect teens today, I didn't find it as powerful as I had expected and wish there was more depth to the plot and characters. I hovered between a 2.5 and a 3-star rating but opted to bump up my rating to 3 stars because Johnson was able to keep my interest.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Random House Canada and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.