Benoit follows You (2010) with an equally absorbing, though less sadistic, tale of a high school senior whose passivity and conflict-avoidance threaten to trap him in other people’s self-interested plans. By appearances, Sawyer leads an enviable life: he’s a respectable student, is doted on by involved parents, dates a sexy and popular girlfriend, and has a car, job, and decent college prospects. Only after meeting Grace, a girl from the “other side of the proverbial tracks,” whose opening line, “I need you to steal something for me,” piques his curiosity, does he become aware of the smothering, coercive nature of his other key relationships. Grace’s mysteriousness, cleverness, and unexpected propensity for fun compel Sawyer to participate in her increasingly wild plans to gain celebrity status, while her risk taking and courage inspire him to resist oppressive forces on the home front. Benoit’s fast pacing, spot-on dialogue, and plot twists keep readers guessing about Grace (“Trust me.... You’ve got no idea what I’m thinking”), rooting for Sawyer, and pondering questions about freedom, choice, and integrity in human connections. Ages 13–up. (May)
A shattering, gut-wrenching novel. Pick it up and you won’t put it down!
A satisfying piece of teen noir.
Sawyer's parents have his future all mapped out. After he graduates high school, he will attend Wembly College (his parents' alma mater) along with his longtime girlfriend, Zoe. He will major in accounting and become an insurance actuary. It is a nice plan, but it is not what Sawyer wants; he is not sure what he wants, but becoming an insurance actuary is not it. So, when Grace approaches Sawyer asking for his help stealing a model UN treaty, Sawyer agrees, simply because it is something of which his parents and Zoe would not approve. Soon, Grace is asking for Sawyer's help with her plan to become rich and famous, a plan that involves staging a museum heist. Sawyer is a character with whom teens will identify. His lack of direction and chafing under his parents' demands will be familiar to many readers. He handles ethical dilemmas and relationships in a realistic teenage manner. The other characters, including Grace, Zoe, and Sawyer's parents, are less developed. Grace's desire to be rich and famous, and to have fun is the driving force for all her actions, including her relationship with Sawyer. While her deeper motivations are hinted at, she is a bit one-note. The novel's ending, while fitting with the story, is unexpected and will appeal to those teens who like their endings realistic, rather than happy. Reviewer: Bethany Martin
Lies, lust and betrayal just don't add up fast enough. On the outside, high schooler Sawyer seems to be gliding through life. He's focused; he's got good grades, a hot girlfriend and plans for college. On the inside, however, he feels trapped by his parents' expectations and the tight leash his girlfriend keeps around his neck. Enter Grace Sherman, a smooth-talking, resourceful, quick-witted girl from another high school whose presence infuses him with excitement and a sense of danger. She's cool but weird enough to be sexy. What's more, she's hell-bent on stealing a painting from the local library, and she needs Sawyer's help. Benoit's second teen effort is just as tightly crafted as his first (You, 2010). Characterizations are solidly constructed, and the plot moves methodically as Sawyer is pulled deeper into Grace's plan. Despite Benoit's ability to pull all of these elements together, the novel is missing a hook, which is what made his first so effortlessly terrifying. Art theft as a concept may not pique the interests of teen readers, especially those looking for a body count. The tension also builds slowly--more than half of the novel is given over to building up Sawyer's relationship with Grace. It's definitely an intriguing pairing, but less-patient readers will be flipping pages to get to the action. A slow-build, film-noir high-school drama. (Fiction. 14 & up)
Gr 8 Up—This portrait of a floundering teen should find a rapt audience. Sawyer is an insular but likable high school senior fighting an urge to rebel against conformity at home and at school. His parents are so controlling that they select his extracurricular activities and classes. They've already picked his college (their alma mater), and his dad denies Sawyer's request to apply elsewhere. His parents could win a prize for most annoying people in the story, but Sawyer's girlfriend is a close second. Zoë is a jealous gossip who treats him so scornfully that Sawyer isn't even sure he can consider them lovers. His life is predictable and planned out until Grace, a girl from the poor side of town who has no college plans and is possibly homeless, shakes up his world. She's determined to get a little fun by breaking the rules. Grace and Sawyer bond over old movies, The Sting being a favorite. When she helps him cheat on an exam, he becomes intrigued by her smarts and spontaneity, two qualities that draw him into her grand scheme to steal a great work of art. Too bad she's almost as absorbed in herself as he is or she might have something to offer Sawyer beyond her own ambition and self-interest. Some readers might find the ending a little depressing and cynical, but the story is clever and original nonetheless.—Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY