From School Library Journal
Gr 8-10-Though Katie, Nate, and Renata are social outcasts, they have a very tight bond. So when big man on campus Chase begins bullying Renata, they kidnap him, and because of their drastic action, they all end up in juvenile detention. Their social worker asks them each to keep a journal, and the novel is made up of their entries as well as an omniscient narrative. Katie writes two journals; in one she tells what actually happened, but the other is blatantly fake, intended for Mrs. Shield. Nate writes a flowery, fantasy-novel version of events. Renata uses her journal as a sketchbook, producing powerful black-and-white illustrations of pivotal moments leading up to her detention. The girls' journals offer great insights into their characters. Nate's high-fantasy language protects him from view until the very end, when the social worker breaks down his walls. The omniscient narrator chapters, though necessary, are jolting after the intimacy of the personal accounts. These kids have never been in trouble before, and their first act of rebellion goes wildly over-the-top in a believable, out-of-control spiral. These middle school kids encounter drugs, alcohol, sexuality, and violence, but Willey sensitively and skillfully reveals not only the details of their drastic act, but also the secrets that the three friends and their victim harbor, secrets that shape who they are and what their futures may be.-Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CTα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Four secrets? Feels more like 400. This mystery twists like kudzu, creeping ever closer to truths that, as readers, we both need to know and are afraid to find out. Katie, Nate, and Renata are three junior high school friends locked up in juvie after being found guilty of kidnapping the class bully, Chase. Their stories are told in nonsequential, piecemeal fashion via journals for their social worker, Greta Shield. It’s a potential overload of information that Willey navigates with clarity and aplomb: Katie has two diaries, one for Mrs. Shield and a secret one filled with screenplay-style dialogue; Renata communicates only in skewed, nightmarish drawings; and Nate tells his story as if it were a Tolkienesque fantasy. This last gambit is risky but reveals the tale’s mythic quality. In Nate’s version, he is “Nathaniel of Greymount,” juvie is “the Place of Contrition,” and Chase is “the Master of Contortions.” Gradually, Greta Shield emerges as the protagonist, obsessed with digging up the truth. If Chase wasn’t really kidnapped, then why are all four kids sticking to their stories? Low on visceral detail but rich in unique voices, Willey’s story masterfully teases out information until the final pages—and the ultimate revelations are well worth the torture. Grades 7-10. --Daniel Kraus