Shawna Stone is a sixteen-year old girl with deep emotional wounds. She has been told by her rather dysfunctional mother Jackie that her father had abandoned them before she was born and then was killed. In fact, Shawna cannot even remember if her father’s name was Nic or Rick or whatever. Jackie and Shawna have moved around frequently and lived in a number of places but wind up in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Jackie becomes addicted to gambling Then one day, Shawna wakes up in their seedy apartment to find that Jackie has left for the East Coast with her current boyfriend Dylan to try their luck at the casinos in New Jersey. Shawna has nothing but an overdue rent notice and the phone number of her grandmother, Kay Stone, in Sweet River, California, along with a bus ticket to Sacramento and $100 that Dylan left her.
After considering her options, Shawna chooses to go to Sweet River, where her youngish grandmother, who runs a horse ranch with the help of a grizzled farmhand named Kenny, must learn to cope with her foul-mouthed anger and shrugging indifference to everything, except a mistreated horse whom she names Magic on the ranch next door. However, it is even worse than Kay suspects. Shawna has an imaginary friend named Monster who drives her to find relief from her pain by cutting her ankles with a razor blade. Shawna has also brought her mom’s bottle of sleeping pills in case she decides that she wants to end it all. Then there are the other kids at school with whom Shawna has to deal, including handsome Casey who works weekends on her grandmother’s ranch. Furthermore, Kay has some of her own demons to work through, including the death of her son Nic and the breakup of her marriage after that. Will this unlikely pair be able to overcome their past and work out their inner sufferings?
This is a fascinating coming of age story that is well told and will grip one’s attention right from the very beginning. However, most Home School Buzz readers would probably want to be forewarned that since the author describes this book as an “edgy YA-crossover,” there is quite a bit of rather explicit language that includes cursing (the “d” and “h” words), taking the Lord’s name in vain, a lot of slang that many people consider vulgar, and even a few instances of the “s” and “f” words, along with various scenes of mature content. It is definitely not a book for small children. However, if this kind of thing does not bother you, the book does contain an interesting picture of how people who are troubled learn to cope with life and find solutions to their problems. The author tells me that there is a teacher’s guide that she has written and will be available with the book for schools probably in the fall of this year.