From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. "I didn't go to Alice's funeral." So opens Australian author James's impressive debut, a searing coming-of-age novel that deftly intertwines two violent backstories. Studious Katherine Patterson, who's reading a book under a tree during lunchtime at her Sydney high school, is surprised when Alice Parrie, "beautiful, popular, impossible to miss," hands Katherine an invitation to her 18th birthday party. Alice draws Katherine, who has her reasons for remaining aloof from others, into an addictive relationship that fatally sours as one disturbing secret after another comes to light. James, gifted with unusual insight into teenage agonies, probes Katherine's raw-nerve guilt over her sister Rachel's murder, Alice's self-destructive narcissism, and the healing power of young love. This unflinching exploration of psychological manipulation and the tragedies it creates introduces a promising new talent in literary suspense.
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Australian author James' U.S. debut speaks directly to older teens and twentysomethings. Katherine, a self-imposed outsider who narrates her own story, may be wrapped in guilt following the tragic death of her sister, but she is still recognizably 17—longing for friendship and fun, searching for love, committment, and sex. When charismatic classmate Alice befriends her, emotional baggage and all, she is surprised and enormously grateful. But as her self-confidence returns and she finds other friends and a sweet, gentle boyfriend, she begins to see her best friend in fresh light—and starts wondering if Alice is really a friend at all. A nail-biting thriller this isn't, and wouldn't be if the title wasn't an unfortunate giveaway. But the novel will be an easy sell as a beach book, and it's not hard to picture readers sympathizing with Katherine's deep-rooted need to make sense of the past and find satisfaction in the person she has become. --Stephanie Zvirin
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