E. Lockhart’s latest novel opens in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where 18-year-old Jule West Williams is spending a month at a luxury resort. She speaks with a London accent and makes friends with the bartender. She swims laps and studies Spanish. She’s friendly and outgoing, but always holds something back, and she always looks over her shoulder. She is also entirely alone. On the outside, it would appear that Jule is a wealthy heiress with time to kill and money to burn, but on the inside, Jule is a self-trained fighter with a shady past. Then, there’s Imogen Sokoloff, Jule’s charismatic friend who loves Victorian novels and global jaunts. Both Jule and Imogen are orphans, but one was adopted into money, and the other most definitely was not. And yet, somehow, their lives become impossibly intertwined.
To reveal anything else would spoil this deftly plotted and fast-paced narrative told in reverse-chronological order. However, readers familiar with Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley—which Lockhart, bestselling author of We Were Liars, cites as an influence—will sense the story’s chilling trajectory. This isn’t a typical teen novel with clear-cut heroines and antagonists, and yet young readers will identify bits of themselves in these complicated characters. Because, as Jule discovers, the biggest hurdle of adolescence is simply finding out who you are.
Kimberly Giarratano is the author of Grunge Gods and Graveyards, a young adult paranormal mystery.