Brown takes a classic teen angst story of love and abuse and gracefully transforms it. Her characters are compelling and vivid; they allow a look inside not just the thoughts of an abuse victim, but the harder part to understand: the feelings.
Alex and her two best friends, studious Beth and silly Zach, have been planning a post-graduation trip to Colorado forever. Suddenly Cole transfers to her school. Handsome and charming, he sweeps Alex off her feet. Zach and Beth don’t like him, but Alex insists they’ve never given him a chance. Soon Alex feels forced to choose between Cole and her friends. Then one day, out of nowhere, Cole becomes violent. He follows it with sweet apologies and promises, but Alex isn’t stupid. She loves him, but when things go too far she must decide whether Cole is really worth it. (LITTLE, BROWN, May, 359 pp., $17.99, ISBN: 9780316086950, HC, 15 & Up)