Its 1975 and the world is in the midst of the Sexual Revolution. Except not in Weaver Falls, where seventeen-year-old Jocelyns boyfriend Benny is wrestles with guilt over their passionate lovemaking in the woods. When Benny tells her he has bargained with God to swap their relationship in exchange for his dying mothers life, and that popular Father Warren has counseled him that Jocelyn is of the devil, she feels that her soul is stained -- not a new emotion for her. Although as a small child she perceived the sunlit colors of the stained glass windows in St. Marys as Gods blessing, her mothers divorce ten years ago has estranged both of them from the Catholic church and Jocelyn from the other kids at school. The relentless teasing all through her childhood of her same-age next-door neighbor Gabe has left her feeling even more rejected.
But now Gabe is missing, and the whole town turns out to search for him day after day, as his parents grieve, and Benny and Jocelyns breakup drags on agonizingly in the background. In alternate chapters, episodes show Gabes wild antics as a child, and his cruel tricks then despite Jocelyns devotion to him. After a near-rape when she was twelve, Jocelyn has kept her distance from Gabe, but now she can still draw on that invisible cord that used to bind them to follow clues to his whereabouts and try to comfort his shame that he has succumbed to Father Warrens sexual demands.
Jennifer Richard Jacobson has built a story that treads delicately around a sensitive contemporary issue and explores first love and naïve belief with convincing characters. (Ages 14 and up) --Patty Campbell
From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up–Sixteen-year-old Jocelyn alternates her narrative between the present of 1975, in which she grapples with an ambivalent boyfriend and the frightening disappearance of another boy whom she's known from early childhood, and the past of that childhood. Gabe, the boy who is missing, is shown to be, through Jocelyn's memories as well as his more recent actions, both strong willed and secretive. Jocelyn is clearly more stable than either Gabe or her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Benny. What she lacks, according to all three of them, is an acceptable attachment to redeeming traditionalism. This includes the fact that she never made her First Communion and seems content to be unchurched. Both Benny and Gabe seem to be influenced in some nefarious way, Jocelyn believes, by the local Roman Catholic priest. Benny tells her quite directly that she is his moral downfall because she is "stained." Jacobson creates some realistic teen characters in this tightly plotted but somewhat problematic novel about priest sex abuse. The adults here are flat and mostly unsavory or at least unsympathetic, except for Benny's virtually sainted but fatally ill mother. But that makes sense given that readers can see everyone only through Jocelyn's eyes. Less compelling is the priest's unexamined motivation. Whether or not readers have background knowledge of the ongoing Church scandal or traditional Catholicism, they will find much to consider and to discuss in this story.–Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA