From the Publisher
"An utterly believable mystery, gritty with high school drama and shot through with suspense. . . . A captivating read, right to the last page."—Carol Plum-Ucci, author of The Body of Christopher Creed
"Action-packed. . . . Through the teen's gripping first-person viewpoint, the mystery and romance universalize the struggle to discover and confront the truth."—Booklist
"Elements of the problem novel commingled with a potential murder mystery will be a draw for fans of ripped-from-the-headlines drama."—Bulletin
"An engaging page turner with a very likable protagonist."—Kirkus
VOYA - Stacy Holbrook
After being diagnosed with Macular Degeneration and pronounced legally blind, Roz Hart is given more bad newsshe must start sophomore year in a Life Skills class for Special Ed students. Though she has a blind spot causing her to only use peripheral vision, Roz insists she does not need the class; she can take care of herself. This attitude pits her against the class's teacher, Mr. Dellian. Also her AP History teacher, Dellian treats Roz terribly when she protests against Life Skills. Roz brightens when Jonathan, popular hockey star and Dellian's assistant, invites her to his weekly parties. The two start dating and Roz is happy to feel normal again. Unfortunately, her condition is not her only blind spotRoz becomes blind to the dangerous truth about her new boyfriend and his parties. When Tricia, a drug addict from Life Skills, is found dead, Roz tries to find out what happened. It is only when Roz learns to accept help and trust her friends more than Jonathan, that Roz learns the truth about Tricia's death. Using Roz's naivety and partial blindness, the author creates a mystery with a gritty, issue-oriented storyline to engage readers. The dark tone of the novel adds to the suspense of the story, making for a compelling, entertaining read. Tricia's hard drug use is described in the story, as is the use of a date-rape drug at Jonathan's parties; both are necessary to overall plot development and young adults will appreciate the author's honesty with the subjects. Reviewer: Stacy Holbrook
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Roswell Hart has macular degeneration, which causes everything in her line of vision to be obstructed by spots. To the independent teen, her placement in a learning-skills class is an insult to her intelligence and her determination to live a normal life. The way the author approaches the issue of legal blindness is the book's strongest attribute. The rest of it falls short of delivering a good read. A troubled classmate is found dead in the river, having been missing for six months. Roz had fought with her and was the last one to see her alive; she has no memories of that night. And now she is accused of murder. The book is simply written, but readers become bogged down in the slow-moving plot. The characters lack dimension and are difficult to connect with. The "bad-guy" teacher is completely incompetent and unprofessional. The police supporting a scheme by a bunch of minors to bring the dead girl "back to life" to ensnare the murderer is highly improbable. The characters bicker, feel sorry for themselves, and lie to one another. Even though current issues are included in the novel (date rape, absent fathers, inept mothers, drug use), they do not add any credibility to the characters or the story.—Corrina Austin, Locke's Public School, St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada
A girl with macular degeneration finds herself the key witness in a murder mystery set in Alaska. When AP student Roz discovers she's in a special ed class because of her visual "disability," she is furious. Mr. Dellian, who teaches both Life Skills and AP history as well as coaching hockey, seems to take active pleasure in her discomfort. Everything about Life Skills is awful, especially junkie Tricia, who, on the first day of school, somehow manages to get Roz to buy pot for her with the help of hottie Jonathan Webb. This isn't all bad, as soon Jonathan is calling Roz "Beautiful" and taking her to parties. Meanwhile, Roz makes friends with new-kid-at-school Greg, former crush object of her ex-BFF, and slowly comes to appreciate her fellow Life Skills classmates. And then Tricia goes missing after a calamitous party and is discovered dead months later. Roz is an enormously appealing narrator, her tangled emotions about everything from needing to ask for help to navigating friendships both believable and sympathetic. Secondary characterization is for the most part solid, though Greg is a bit on the saintly side, and Mr. Dellian (who speaks like a boarding school relic) is thoroughly unconvincing as an educator, however good an antagonist he makes. The convoluted end is both hard to believe and emotionally satisfying. Though there's entirely too much going on, this is an engaging page turner with a very likable protagonist. (Mystery. 12-18)
Read an Excerpt
Winter stopped hiding tricia Farni on Good Friday.
A truck driver, anxious to shave forty minutes off his commute, ventured across the shallow section of the Birch river used as an ice bridge all winter. His truck plunged into the frigid water, and as rescuers worked to save him and his semi, tricia’s body floated to the surface.
She’d been missing since the incident in the loft six months ago. But honestly, she didn’t come to mind when I heard that a girl’s body had been found. I was that sure she was alive somewhere, making someone else’s life miserable. Maybe she was shacking up with some drug dealer, or hooking her way across the state, or whatever. But she was definitely alive.
on Easter morning, that changed.
The body of seventeen-year-old Tricia Farni was pulled from the Birch River Friday night. A junior at Chance High School, Tricia disappeared October 6 after leaving a home- coming party at Birch Hill. Police believe her body has been in the water since the night she disappeared.
I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. tricia was a lot of things, a drug addict, a bitch, a freak. But dead? No. She was a survivor. Something — the only thing — I admired about her. I stared at my clock radio, disbelieving the news reporter. Ninety percent talk, aM 760 was supposed to provide refuge from my own wrecked life that weekend. I thought all those old songs with their sha-la- la-las and da-doo-run-runs couldn’t possibly trigger any painful memories. I guess when a dead girl is found in Birch, Alaska, and you were the last one to see her alive, even AM 760 can’t save you from bad memories.
While the rest of chance High spent Easter Sunday shopping for bargains on prom dresses and making meals of pink marsh- mallow chicks, I lay on my bed, images of tricia flooding my brain. I tried to cling to the macabre ones — the way I imagined her when she was found: her body stiff and lifeless, her brown cloak spread like wings, her black, kohl-rimmed eyes staring up through the cracks in the ice that had been her coffin all winter. these images made me feel sad and sympathetic, how one should feel about a dead girl.
another image kept shoving its way in, though. It was the last time I’d seen tricia. the last thing I remembered clearly from that night, minutes before she disappeared. She and Jonathan in the loft. It made me despise her all over again. and I didn’t want to despise her anymore. She was dead.
What happened to her that night? and why couldn’t I remember anything after the loft, not even going home? all I had were quick snapshots, like traces of a dream: Jonathan’s body against mine; arms, way too many arms; and Mr. Dellian’s face. Puzzle pieces that wouldn’t fit together.
I’m used to piecing things together. My central vision is blocked by dots that hide things from me, leaving my brain to fill in the blanks. My brain doesn’t always get it right. I misinterpret, make mistakes. But my memory? It’s always been the one thing I could count on, saving me time after time from major humiliation. I can see something once and remember it exactly — the layout of a room, the contents of a page, anything. My visual memory makes it less necessary to see, and I rely on it to pick up where my vision fails.
How could my memory be failing me now?
I went over that night again, much as I would with my vision, putting the pieces together to make something sensible and concrete. But the more I focused on those tiny snippets, the farther they slipped from my grasp.
then “copacabana” started playing on the radio.
I slammed my fingers down on the power button to stop the lyrics, but my mind went there anyway. a replay of the day tricia did a striptease during lunch. the day I helped her buy drugs . . .