cover image Getting Somewhere

Getting Somewhere

Beth Neff. Viking, $17.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-670-01255-8

Reminiscent of Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Peaches, this first novel offers multilayered portraits of four juvenile offenders, who in lieu of serving time in a detention center, opt to enter an experimental program set on an organic farm. The goal is for the girls—Jenna, Cassie, Sarah, and Lauren—to learn compassion by working together. Sharing responsibilities in the field and participating in group therapy sessions, the girls cautiously begin to open up to each other, sharing heart-wrenching tales of abuse and neglect. But honesty requires trust, and Lauren remains skeptical and angry; she’s determined to find a way to sabotage the program’s success and “destroy” its leaders. Writing in third-person and alternating between the girls’ perspectives, Neff digs beneath the surface of her characters, exposing the vulnerabilities of both the teens and the adults in charge. Although some of the drama, especially the heavily foreshadowed climax, feels manufactured, the girls’ developing insight into themselves and others is authentic. Agent: Elaine Koster Agency. Ages 12–up. (Jan.)