cover image Harmless


Dana Reinhardt, . . Random/Lamb, $15.99 (229pp) ISBN 978-0-385-74699-1

In a psychologically taut drama, Reinhardt (A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life ) delves into the minds of three private-school freshmen girls who tell a lie that turns out to be anything but "harmless." The parents of Anna, Emma and Mariah think the girls are at a movie when in fact the three are partying with some boys from the local public high school. When Emma's mother checks the theater and finds the girls missing, she text-messages her daughter and notifies the other parents. The girls know they're in big trouble unless they can make up a convincing explanation. They decide to tell everyone that Emma was attacked by a stranger (and rescued by Anna and Mariah) but the results of their fib prove to be disastrous, as outraged townspeople join with the police force to make sure that justice is served. Anna, Emma and Mariah react differently to their rising notoriety: Anna revels in taking the spotlight, Mariah wants the whole ordeal to be over, and Emma is wracked with guilt. Tension mounts after a homeless man is arrested for the crime. Besides showing how a "little" lie can quickly get out of control, the author convincingly creates three flawed heroines to whom teens can relate. The girls' complex family situations and relationships with each other add depth and tension to the story as well as adding credence to the reasons each is reluctant to make a confession. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)