From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Griffin has upped the ante with this engrossing page-turner that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. He retains his penchant for characters who are broken and battered by the vicissitudes of life and who struggle to find meaning and happiness. However, no matter how tragic the situation, he injects a poignant humanity and hopefulness into the most desperate of circumstances. Readers meet Nicole Castro, who is beautiful, brilliant, and popular. Her life completely changes the day that her perfect face is deliberately marred by acid. Classmate Jay Nazarro is determined to discover the perpetrator of this heinous and violent attack. A computer geek, Jay has become a recluse due to the humiliation he suffered when he had a seizure in front of the entire student body. The two form a tenuous alliance, searching for motives and possible suspects. Alternating narratives, email messages, journal entries, and therapist notes chronicle Jay's investigation and the shocking unraveling of the truth. Jay's snarky bravado, biting commentary, and personal anxiety provide an excellent counterpoint to Nicole's piercing, heartbreaking inner dialogue. These realistic portraits will resonate with readers, who will appreciate this story on many levels: as a psychological study, social commentary, a puzzling mystery, or tender romance. Allusions to Picasso's Girl in Front of a Mirror should send readers off to explore this contemporary art classic. Another stellar offering from this talented author.-Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NYα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Hacker Jay Nazarro meets Nicole Castro in the school psychologist’s office and is drawn to the mystery behind her bandaged face. Who would have reason to squirt battery acid on one of the school’s most beautiful and well-liked girls? He secretly begins using his tech skills to uncover the answer and, in the process, finds many suspects. The story unfolds mostly through Jay’s first-person narration, supplemented by Nicole’s journal entries, online chats, e-mails, and other tidbits brought to light by Jay’s hacking. Jay’s embarrassing public seizure two years earlier earned him the nickname Spaceman by his less-than-empathetic classmates, prompting his counseling sessions and his homeschooling with an often-absent art-critic father. As he and Nicole become friends and dig deeper into the crime, the danger ramps up, as does the introspection and emotional tension. A connection to Picasso’s Girl before a Mirror is nicely integrated into the plot, whereas Nicole’s secret, hinted at in the title, is less so. Teens will burn through this smart mystery quickly. Grades 8-11, --Cindy Dobrez