From School Library Journal
Gr 7-9-Kiara's mother is living in Montreal launching her career as a musician so her father sets his musical aspirations aside to be his daughter's caregiver. The eighth-grader's Asperger's syndrome does little to help her adjust to or understand her unsettled family situation. Mr. Internet is her go-to for black-and-white answers to the complexities of life. On the Net, Kiara also delves into a fantasy world of superhero personas and takes on the alter ego of Rogue. While she is academically successful, she is socially shunned. When she joins the popular girls' table-uninvited-she is ridiculed and publicly rejected. It does little for her case when she hauls off and slams her lunch tray into another girl's face. Now Kiara is friendless and expelled from school. She befriends her new neighbor, Chad, whose home is a meth den where he is forced to collect ingredients for his parents' lethal concoctions. Kiara spends lots of time trying to be Chad's friend and steer him in a better direction; he spends lots of time trying to survive the horror of his home life and being nasty to Kiara. Chad's and Kiara's fathers play music together in the backyard, so it's hard to believe that Kiara's dad doesn't notice how weird things are. The dangerous neighborhood happenings seem to completely escape him until there is a major explosion in the meth lab. Too much happens in this novel and too little of it revolves around Kiara.-Alison Follos, formerly at North Country School, Lake Placid, NYα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This raw and edgy tale will leave readers almost as scarred as the boy who shares center stage with its narrator, a girl with Asperger’s. Kiara’s tendency to viciously lash out when she is angry or frustrated has finally gotten her kicked out of eighth grade. She finds companionship, of a sort, in a sweet, scruffy, young new neighbor and his fiercely protective big brother, Chad, who is as prickly and secretive as they come. As it turns out, Chad has plenty to hide. There is a drunken suicide attempt, and Chad has both bleeding internal burns from the meth lab his parents are running and external wounds from years of abuse. Meanwhile, Kiara’s talent with a video camera gives her a measure of pride to place against a self-image hammered by twin convictions that she has been abandoned by her mother, and is a genetic mistake caused by her dad’s chemo. Kiara’s graphic, matter-of-fact descriptions after a climactic explosion in the lab add further stomach-churning intensity to her narrative. Though the author leaves Kiara and Chad in better places than they were, both are still wounded and facing steep personal challenges. A harrowing read. Grades 7-10. --John Peters