From the Publisher
Praise for Escape Theory
A 2014 Anthony Award Best Young Adult Novel Nominee
"Escape Theory is a riveting psychological journey—Margaux Froley truly nails it. The characters sing on the pages, the mystery leaves you breathless, and the world is spooky but recognizable—you feel like you're in the thick of things with Devon every step of the way. I will never think of Nutter Butters the same again, and I can't wait for the next Keaton School installment!"
—Sara Shepard New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars
“A sexy, smart, page turner, a must read!”
—Octavia Spencer, Academy Award winning star of The Help
“Escape Theory kept me up way past curfew, with no regrets.”
—Cecily von Ziegesar, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Gossip Girl
“A suspenseful, psychologically complex drama of teenage angst and sexuality.”
—New York Journal of Books
“This is Froley's first novel and I can't wait for her to bring another book out. I loved the strong lead characters and finally a teen girl who doesn't give everything up for the perfect guy—Devon's guy is far from it. If you like a mystery, a good teen story or a bunch of very different characters, this is for you.”
“Gossip Girl goes West Coast ... [Devon] opens a Veronica Mars-style investigation that uncovers a web of secrets and lies.”
"A stellar debut.... With a heady mix of mystery and emotional turmoil, Froley gives readers compelling character development."
—Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
"Veronica Mars meets Nancy Drew... This fast-paced novel weaves emotionally rich characters into a complex web of unspoken rules and painful secrets, including love, betrayal, and a deeply entrenched system of pharmaceutical abuse among Keaton's students."
—School Library Journal
“Froley infuses this story with layered and interesting characters that keep the reader guessing [about].... the super-rich, complicated student body of Keaton School. If this debut novel is any indication of the quality of those to succeed it, the series should have a great following.”
“Margaux Froley gives the boarding school novel a West Coast twist in this suspenseful and complex mystery.... Readers will be eager to follow Devon's progress.”
TV writer Froley makes a stellar debut with this problem novel/thriller hybrid that might be the boarding school answer to Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline. Junior Devon Mackintosh, one of the scholarship student “have-nots” at the ritzy Keaton School, is the school’s first peer counselor. When popular student Jason “Hutch” Hutchins dies in a presumed suicide, Devon’s therapy sessions with grieving students become much more intense than she expected. Exacerbating matters are Devon’s history with Hutch and the secrets she learns from Hutch’s girlfriend, best friend, and others, all of which convince her that Hutch couldn’t have taken his own life. Meanwhile, Devon’s romantic life is heating up, as her friend Grant returns to school looking hunkier than before. Even if the privileged environment and its prescription drug and alcohol abuse have been seen before, Froley uses the setting well, avoiding caricatures and letting her characters’ apparent shallowness dissolve, as Devon quizzes them both in and out of therapy. With a heady mix of mystery and emotional turmoil, Froley gives readers compelling character development (even with a large cast) and a fast-paced plot. Ages 14–up. (Mar.)
VOYA - Ursula Adams
In Froley's debut novel Escape Theory, protagonist Devon Mackintosh tries to unravel the mystery behind the suicide of fellow student, Jason "Hutch" Hutchins. Set in a prestigious California boarding school, Devon is assigned as a peer counselor to help friends of Hutch cope with their grief. Devon has to deal with her feelings of loss, as well. Froley nicely transitions between two-year intervals tracing the brief but meaningful romantic encounter Devon had with Hutch. During the counseling sessions, Devon suspects that Hutch did not take his own life but was a victim to a homicide. The book is sectioned off in counseling sessions that Devon has with Hutch's friends and girlfriend. Revealed in these sessions is the hidden, but prevalent, prescription drug problem throughout the campus. Froley infuses this story with layered and interesting characters that keep the reader guessing as to their involvement with Hutch and, potentially, with his death. In that respect, Escape Theory is essentially a mystery story. Readers who enjoy mysteries with a psychological backdrop will enjoy this story. Although the book wraps up nicely at its finish, the subtitle, "A Keaton School Novel" suggests that this may be a start of a series. Froley may have more tales to tell surrounding the super-rich, complicated student body of Keaton School. If this debut novel is any indication of the quality of those to succeed it, the series should have a great following. Reviewer: Ursula Adams
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Veronica Mars meets Nancy Drew in this scandalous mystery set in a prestigious school in California. This fast-paced novel weaves emotionally rich characters into a complex web of unspoken rules and painful secrets, including love, betrayal, and a deeply entrenched system of pharmaceutical abuse among Keaton's students. This is probably not a first-round pick, but remains nonetheless an engaging title with thoughtful characters. It's sure to find an audience among readers who enjoyed Cecily von Ziegesar's "Gossip Girl" series (Little, Brown) and its ilk. Though this is not an "issue novel," the plot does revolve around extensive drug use and teen sex, although the discussion is never explicit.—Anna Berger, formerly Literature Consultant, Piper City, IL
Read an Excerpt
September 5, 2012
Devon’s eye caught the harsh glare of the setting sun. She blinked and looked down, realizing she was rubbing her right palm where Hutch had kissed her years before.
"Devon? Are you sure you can handle this?”
She looked up at Mr. Robins. The sunlight suffused the wooden blinds behind him, highlighting the chaos of his curly brown hair. He scrunched his flabby cheeks, pushing his thick, black-rimmed glasses further up his nose. A bushy eyebrow flickered. He wanted an answer.
“Devon? If it’s too much—”
“No, Mr. Robins. It’s fine. I can handle it,” she said.
He leaned back in his chair. “Good. You’re certain?”
“I’m certain,” she said. Her voice tightened.
“And remember from the training guide, you don’t need to have all the answers. You just need to listen. That’s the most important thing you can do for them right now.”
The backlighting found the details in Mr. Robins’s tired face: the end-of-day stubble around his chin and upper lip, the wrinkles that were beginning to make a home at the edge of his eyes. He looked as exhausted as she felt. “Your fellow students are really going to need you.”
“Whoever you think needs a session, I’m here to help,” she said.
“Whomever,” he corrected her.
“Sorry, whomever,” she said through gritted teeth.
“You don’t have to do the push-ups this time,” he offered.
“Thanks,” Devon seethed. Could he really be thinking about grammar right now? Mistaking ‘who’ and ‘whom’ in front of Mr. Robins actually resulted in push-ups. Sometimes the whole class would have to do them for one person’s mistake. But, no, even he had no interest in these Keaton-isms today. He studied his fingernails.
“Imagine if my program had been around earlier. Maybe Jason would have sought refuge in a peer instead of turning his anger inward….”
“I realize we’ve only been through a basic amount of training over the summer, but we’ll do the best we can, hmm?” He flashed Devon a tight-lipped smile. It was at once a supportive gesture combined with a hint of I’m watching you.
Devon nodded. What do you mean ‘we’? You’re not the one being thrown into the lion’s den, she wanted to say.
“Like I said, I’m here to help. So, if we’re good here….” she let the words drag out, but Mr. Robins didn’t get the hint. He was still pondering the mystery of his fingernails.
“You know, if you and Jason were close we can arrange—”
“Hutch. And no, not really. We talked a bit freshman year, but that was like once, ages ago . . . no, I’m fine. These things happen.” Devon took a deep breath to keep her rising thoughts from spilling out. These things happen. Like getting locked in an off-limits kitchen with a guy after curfew. Sure, that happens all the time. Those damn Nutter Butters. That night in the kitchen.Their night in the kitchen.
Mr. Robins started shuffling through papers on his desk. “You should get yourself some dinner.”
Devon jumped up. As she swung her worn-in backpack over a shoulder she caught a glimpse of her own haggard reflection in the window. She’d grown a few inches since freshman year. That flat chest was no longer a problem by the time she was a sophomore. She now lived in the Keaton sweats she used to loathe, and kept her hair in a messy ponytail most of the time. It was as if someone had thrown her chipper freshman RA, June, the month, into a washing machine—and Devon was what came out, her smile left behind long ago in the spin cycle.
“Thanks,” she said on autopilot.
“I’ll send Matt over to you first thing tomorrow,” Mr. Robins replied, focusing on his desk. “Classes will be cancelled, so you can take all the time you think you need. Just remember what we talked about this summer; listen, take notes, and then we’ll discuss afterwards, okay?”
The next thing she knew, Devon was standing in front of the milk machine in the dining hall. It was all the same meaningless swirl: The dull whispering voices of other students eating dinner, faculty trying to keep their toddlers quiet out of respect, and the kitchen staff yelling behind the scenes. Noise in a place that should have been dark and empty.All I wanted was some milk.
What would she do if she could go back to that night? Would she have done it differently? She wanted to experience that newness again. She thought of that apple juice dribbling down his chin. What if he hadn’t been there in the dark? She would have just gone back to her dorm without the milk. She would have shared that bag of cookies with the girls in her dorm and watched Bring it On. She wouldn’t know him like she did. And she wouldn’t be feeling this . . . whatever feeling the gnawing pit in her stomach was called. She wouldn’t be feeling that.
But Hutch was there in the dark. And despite what had happened over the last two years, however less frequent their conversations became, however much his secret glances at her across the classroom dwindled, she did know him.
A plate clattered to the floor somewhere in the back of the dining hall. She heard applause for the klutz at fault. A few people laughed. How is anyone laughing right now?
Hutch was right; he’d always been right. They were just a bunch of organ donors. Drones cycling through the prep school system and getting spit out on the other end with their fancy college acceptance letters in hand. They were moving parts in the machine. Replaceable parts.
But Hutch wasn’t replaceable.
Devon hated them. Hated that she was one of them. She had become a part of their machine. The same machine that Hutch had tried so hard not to be a piece of.
The words escaped her lips before she could stop herself.
“ . . . bunch of organ donors.”
The metal milk machine blurred in front of her, morphing into a rippling molten bubble. She reached for a glass, but her hand looked fuzzy. Only then did she realize she’d been crying.