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Fehlbaum's debut novel, set in a small Texas town, is overloaded with thorny issues and hindered by a "very special episode" tone, but features a genuine and empathetic lead. After enduring six years of sexual abuse from her step-father, 14-year-old Ashley Asher finally gathers the courage to confide in her mother; predictably, mom sides with step-dad. Soon, Ashley is sent to live with her estranged birth father, David, and his new wife and son. Though he's now a kind man who's put his life-long anger issues behind him, Ashley still struggles to trust her father. His wife, Bev, a high school English teacher, brings Ashley into her extended family of summer school students; a controversial reading assignment, Ironman by Chris Crutcher, provides the novel's other hot-button issues-racism, censorship, homophobia and religious extremism. An over-the-top scandal is followed by Bev's hokey, message-laden testimonial before the local school board. Throughout, Ashley's self-destructive tendencies, conflicted feelings and struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder read authentically; had Fehlbaum focused more on her recovery, rather than a raft of societal woes, this story would have been more powerful. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.