4.1 16
by Melissa Lion

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Samantha only wants to be loved. By her father, by her best friend, and now by the new boy at school, Farouk. The more time Sam spends with him, the more she can’t stop thinking about him. But she’s cautious, because people can hurt. To escape, Sam runs track at school, finishing every race, but never pushing herself to the limit. As she runs, she is… See more details below


Samantha only wants to be loved. By her father, by her best friend, and now by the new boy at school, Farouk. The more time Sam spends with him, the more she can’t stop thinking about him. But she’s cautious, because people can hurt. To escape, Sam runs track at school, finishing every race, but never pushing herself to the limit. As she runs, she is haunted by the recent, mysterious death of Owen, the school’s golden boy and track star.

Sam and Farouk spend afternoons at the beach where divers risk their lives to jump off high cliffs into the churning water below. Like the divers, Sam risks herself to be with Farouk, growing more and more attached to him, longing to feel safe enough to let herself go and show her true feelings.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Readers will sense something swelling and bubbling just beneath the surface of this psychologically complex first novel. California teen Samantha Pallas stands on shaky ground, surrounded by unstable characters. Her divorced parents are emotionally distant ("My mother had easily given me up to my father.... My father easily gave me up each time he asked me to lie for him," Samantha thinks) and her best friend, Chloe, expresses her pain by cutting herself. Then there's Owen, the star of Samantha's cross-country team, whose sudden death sparks rumors of suicide. After a summer of one-night flings, Samantha falls hard and fast for a new Iranian student named Farouk. They share several intimate chats and Samantha feels sure that Farouk loves her too. But after their relationship turns physical, she learns that he is as untrustworthy as her two-timing father. Readers will anticipate an explosion when Samantha realizes she's been used by Farouk. Instead, the end of the romance creates yet another quiet ripple of uncertainty and unhappiness for Samantha, confirming her notion that all men are liars. Besides conveying a negative image of men, the book's conclusion is frustratingly ambiguous. The mystery of Owen's death goes unsolved; Chloe never comes to terms with her self-mutilation; and Samantha's parents stay remote, unwilling to offer her support. It remains unclear whether Samantha has, in the end, lost faith in the opposite sex or whether she will find the courage to seek a more stable love relationship. Ages 12-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Samantha is an introspective high school student who characterizes herself as "invisible." She loves to run track but is always in the middle of the pack. She lives in a sterile condo in San Diego with her father, a chronic philanderer, and his pregnant girlfriend; Sam's mother left several years before. The teen tries to fill her life with her friend Chloe, who has her own family problems; running; and the boys she meets on the beach, with whom she has casual sex. Then something unexpected happens. Popular Owen Killgore, who had tried to use Sam for his careless pleasure, dies in his sleep ostensibly of a "swollen" heart, and, on the same day, a new boy joins her class. She and Farouk begin a tentative relationship that lasts until they become intimate, and then she becomes invisible to him as he moves on to other conquests. This dense and thought-provoking book is a richly rewarding read. It delves so deeply into character that one feels as if layers are being peeled away to reveal more facets of Samantha's emotional life. An achingly beautiful story that shows one young woman's growing strength as she realizes that she deserves better.-Susan Riley, Mount Kisco Public Library, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
High-schooler Samantha lives in a Southern California cultural wasteland in the cold, under-furnished rooms of a huge condo complex with her emotionally distant father and his current girlfriend. The setting parallels Sam's arid social life, which contains only one friend and a number of one-night stands with boys she's doesn't know. When she starts to date newcomer Farouk, she hopes to leave her promiscuous past behind, believing he shares her desire for "peace and focus and a little bit of quiet." They don't communicate well, yet to be with him she gives up running track, her only passion. Understated prose with spare, carefully crafted imagery echoes Sam's subdued life. But the low-key action, bleak setting, and lack of tension make it hard to sustain interest in her character or problems. While it's gratifying that her father's girlfriend ends up supplying Sam with the sense of family and meaning the girl has lacked, the redemption feels tacked on, a sudden warmth that seems too good to be true. (Fiction. 13+)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

chapter one

The new boy showed up on the day Owen Killgore died.

Earlier in the morning, when I walked through the quad and saw the popular girls crying and the jocks swiping at their eyes with their sweatshirt sleeves, I knew something was very wrong. I found my best friend, Chloe, sitting against a wall with the pad of her thumb pressed to her wrist, staunching a small bit of blood from a cut she'd made, thinking no one would notice.

She stood and I put my hand on her wrist over the cut as she tried to hug me.

"You promised," I said, holding tight to her wrist. "No more cutting."

"I saw his body," she said into my hair. "Owen died." I loosened my grip.

"What?" I said, and looked at her closely for a smile on her round face. Chloe's skin was pale and smooth like the inside of a shell and her eyes drooped at the corners and made her look sad.

"It's true," said Chloe.

"It can't be," I said. Not Owen Killgore. The most popular boy couldn't die. He was destined for greatness, they'd said when he was chosen homecoming king. When he won races, the boys' coach stood in front of the teams and talked about Owen's dedication and drive. Owen would bite the inside of his cheek and stare beyond the coach at a vague point on the horizon.

"He won at the last meet," I said.

It had been at our school. The girls' team had finished and we'd stretched and cooled off before the rumble started in the crowd. I sat up in the grass as the people in the stands began to cheer. A single air horn went off as Owen circled into the track. His hands were loose and he smiled as he ran past the home-side seats. He knew the cheers were for him, only him.

"It was horrible. The ambulance woke me," Chloe said now. She lived across the street from Owen. She put her arms around me and squeezed. "I just saw him in the quad yesterday playing football during lunch."

"I don't believe it," I said.

"No," she said. "He was a good person."

When they were kids, she and Owen trick-or-treated together, and splashed together in swim lessons. In her locker, Chloe kept a photo of them as kids making soap beards and mustaches in the bathtub.

"I'm so, so sorry," I said.

She pressed her lips together and nodded. "I'm sad for you guys. For cross-country."

"He was a great runner." He was lean and his stride was long, his hands and shoulders loose like he could run for days. But this beauty and this confidence were only visible from far away. Up close he was just a boy. I had found this out one afternoon a few weeks before.

The bell rang and Chloe hugged me again. "Don't be late."

I walked to first period. The spindly ceramics teacher sat on her desk and dangled one shoe off her toes.

"As you know, Owen Killgore died in his sleep this morning. He was peaceful." She wiggled her foot back into her shoe. She dusted chalk from her hands onto her thighs. "Please read, or work, or go out and talk to the counselors and be with your friends. I'm so sorry," she said, and pressed a tape into a portable stereo. Classical music played as some people got up, and I rested my head on my desk. I dug my thumbnail into a groove in the Formica and for a secret moment I felt relief that Owen was gone, because on that afternoon a few weeks ago he seemed to know me too well.

It was after a meet and I was walking up the hill to my house, which was on the opposite side of the canyon from the nicer part of town. I'd heard stories about the trails in the canyon, about a runner found raped and left for dead. About the coyotes and the homeless people who lived there.

I walked slowly as the sun heated the shirt on my back and I felt my neck burning. Owen came up from the canyon, still in his shorts and jersey. He jumped when he saw me.

"JV Girls' Cross-country, right?" he said.

"Varsity Boys' Cross-country, right?" I walked quickly, but he walked next to me. His sweat made him look clean, like he'd stepped out of the shower.

"You don't win many races, do you?" he asked. I could smell him, wet and brown like mud and dead leaves. I stopped and the cars groaned past us up the hill.

"I don't win any, but I don't come in last either."

He stopped and touched my arm. His fingertips were cool despite the heat.

"I lost today," he said. "Not last place, but close."

"Congratulations," I said. I stepped around him and kept going. He walked beside me so close his arm brushed mine and I was suddenly hotter; his body radiated heat.

"I need to go home." I walked faster, thinking of a time in elementary school when two boys wouldn't let me pass in a corridor.

"Have you ever run the trails in the canyon?"

"I haven't," I said.

"Wanna run now? I can show you the best trail."

"Go shower up, maybe we can run another time," I said, thinking that would be enough for him. I would make plans with him, and then accidentally forget. Not just because of Owen's girlfriend, Linda, though I was sure if she knew she would kill me. But because I wasn't popular and if anything happened between me and Owen, I'd be called a slut as soon as he told all his friends.

He stopped walking and I looked at him up close for the first time. From far away he looked handsome, with dark hair and tanned skin, but now I noticed his eyes were just a bit too light for his skin--a kind of cloudy jade--and his cheekbones were too sharp. Still, he fit the idea of handsome and the girls at our school could forgive him for this.

From the Hardcover edition.

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