A summer on a communal farm in Nebraska proves to be a turning/breaking point for 17-year-old best friends Max and Sadie in this sharp and memorable portrait of a one-sided relationship. Max welcomes the hippie residents (which include Sadie’s absentee mother), yurts, and grueling farm work, but Sadie—volatile, self-absorbed, and always the center of attention—quickly grows bored and irate. After Sadie is quarantined with mono, Max has even more freedom to explore her own thoughts, interests, and desires—including a love/hate crush on a surly older boy that surprises even Max, who typically dates girls. Reed (Crazy) powerfully demonstrates how 13 years of personal history weigh on Max, who has always been forced into the role of protector when it comes to Sadie. The author makes Max’s growing discontent concrete, as her narration shifts from addressing Sadie directly (“You float, serene, while I am the one burdened with memories”) to referring to her in the third-person. By book’s end, Sadie is still part of Max’s story, but she’s no longer the reason for it. Ages 14–up. Agent: Amy Tipton, Signature Literary Agency. (June)
Children's Literature - Jill Walton
Max is a teen who parents her parents and her best friend. When a teen takes care of people who should be taking care of her, someone needs to grow up! Max and her best (and only) friend, narcissist Sadie, are spending their summer at the Oasis in Nebraska and it is no vacation. The girls, who are from Seattle, experience culture shock when they are left at a bus stop in the dust awaiting their ride to a communal farm...and the ride does not come. The Oasis' clock was not working. Sadie's mother lives at the Oasis commune currently and the girls discover they will have their own little trailer for their stay. Sadie's mother is busy, but not with being a Mom. Max, since early childhood, has adored Sadie and is her protector. Sadie's mother tells Max how much she appreciates Max's care of her daughter. Then Sadie contracts mononucleosis, which separates the girls so Sadie depends on others for her care and Max depends only on Max. Max works in the fields and with the domestic animals and she values her labor. She is attracted to the bad boy in the commune; Sadie is attracted to the same bad boy. This young adult novel includes some adult language; it is humorous and deals with real life choices. Reviewer: Jill Walton
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—After a few alcohol-fueled brushes with danger in Seattle, best friends Sadie and Max go to live on an organic farm commune in Nebraska with Sadie's mom for the summer before their senior year. Reliable and protective Max acts as a caregiver for wild-child Sadie. But when Sadie contracts mono and is quarantined for weeks, Max learns how to come out of her friend's shadow, and she even flirts with Dylan, the farm's bad boy. The rhythm and routine of daily farm chores help her begin to forget about her shattered home life. When Sadie recovers, Max is unwilling to go back to their old dynamics and tension grows between them. A life-threatening incident during a tornado forces Max to realize that her friendship with Sadie has run its course; she returns to Seattle to be by her drug-addicted mother's bedside. Sections between chapters relate tales about the flaws and faults of ancient gods and goddesses, which set the stage for the events to occur in the upcoming chapters. Reed keeps readers guessing about the true nature of Max and Sadie's relationship for some time. And while early on Max informs readers that she is bisexual-a fact referenced at various points during the story-her sexuality never becomes a focal point of the story. Overall, this is a captivating novel that will compel teens to reflect on the nature of their friendships.—Nicole Knott, Watertown High School, CT
In Max and Sadie's friendship, wild Sadie is the one who has all the fun, while responsible Max deals with the consequences. Max has never questioned that dynamic, but she begins to see how one-sided their relationship is the summer before senior year, when they stay with Sadie's divorced hippie mom on an organic farm in Nebraska. Compared to Sadie, Max finds the other commune members kind and undemanding, and the mindless farm work is preferable to Sadie's manufactured drama. Max's burgeoning flirtation with bad-boy Dylan drives them even further apart. But their bond finally breaks the night a tornado leaves Max's life hanging in the balance with no Sadie in sight. Author Reed effectively portrays the end of an obsessive adolescent relationship through Max's precocious voice, which initially addresses itself directly to Sadie. As the story progresses, Max refers to Sadie by name instead of "you," demonstrating their growing distance: "Sadie, maybe this story isn't about you anymore." Less well-developed are the secondary characters that never rise above stereotype and neglected subplots involving both girls' parents and Max's bisexuality. The strained retellings of Greek myths inserted between each chapter that seem intended to deepen Max's character and to further illustrate the girls' troubled relationship only serve to interrupt Max's more compelling first-person narration. Teen girls who have experienced similar friendships will find this resonates; other readers probably won't. (Fiction. 14-17)
Read an Excerpt
Over You ’Άρειος
The story of Troy was never about the wooden horse. That is only what people want to remember, something tangible and easy to imagine, something children can build with the popsicle sticks in their minds, then shove full of plastic warriors. The story people know goes like this: a gate, opened; the horse thrown inside; an explosion of violence accompanied by a soundtrack of killing, dying, and victory.
But the horse was only ever just a prop, something to hold the imagination, something simple to focus on instead of what the war, what any war, is really about. The horse was not full of soldiers but hopes and dreams and fears and secrets, all the things tucked inside the hearts of people who are lost. The story started long before that, with the gods and their eternal bickering, their jealousy and revenge and desire and all the other dysfunctions they passed onto their children, cursing man to a life of eternal wandering.
Heroes claim all sorts of things, but their journeys are never all that complicated. They pound their chests and show off their bloody trophies, but no one ever really remembers why they fight. They say it was about a woman, or land, or honor, or God, but in the end it is always about one thing—paradise—losing it and wanting it, finding it and defending it, and yearning, always yearning, for somewhere or something or someone that will make them feel whole.
Home. That is what the hero is always searching for. Sometimes other words are substituted. Love, for instance. Or God. But these are just other ways of saying “home.”