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Children's LiteratureAGERANGE: Ages 16 up.
In the second book of the "Upper Class" series, readers return to Wellington for spring semester. Parker Cole, resident artistic outcast, pairs with Chase Dobbs, resident golden boy, in the duo's Limnology class. During the first assignment the pair discover Mary Loverwest, who has drowned. The two bond through the trauma and the subsequent fallout of feigned mourning and institutional concern. Parker, Chase, and a seemingly endless parade of other characters need to make it from Valentine's Day to Graduation Day and summer, but between Chase's overlooked ADD, his friend's drug dealing, most students' drinking, and bouts with some bad egg salad and worse grades, things do not look good. The book touches on many hot social issues--teen dating and expectations, popularity, class differences, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, peer pressure, and sex all appear in the book--without actually seriously addressing any of these concerns. Instead, readers follow Parker's and Chase's angst-ridden friendship and romance, which are all the more complicated by Chase's continuing feelings for Laine (the main character of the first book) and his one night hookup with Schuyler Covington. The sexual liaisons are described fairly explicitly but without condemnation, as are the episodes of drug and alcohol abuse. Even when Chase and his friend Noah leave their Costa Rican hotel over spring break and return with cocaine for the group, they are only interrupted by a knock at the door, which leads naturally to the drugs being flushed down the toilet. Eventually the drug dealing student Burns is caught and expelled, but the sheer number of users, including Chase, who are caught prevents theschool from punishing them. Teens will probably find the characters relatable, which could lead to some frank discussions, but adults will likely want to use discretion when sharing the text with younger readers. Reviewer: Jennifer Wood