cover image Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory

Nic Stone. Crown, $18.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-593-30770-0

When 18-year-old Andy Criddle drunkenly tries to text his ex-girlfriend during a party, he instead mistakenly messages quiet classmate Shelbi Augustine, 16. He then leaves the party and attempts to drive home, wrecking his car and being charged with a DUI in the process. While conducting his court-mandated community service hours at a soup kitchen, Andy encounters Shelbi, and the two embark on a tenuous friendship. Their fluid, text-based conversations easily translate to IRL get-togethers and mutual personal revelations. These include Shelbi divulging her bipolar depression and her fears of connection after a traumatic experience at her previous school, and Andy’s struggles with grief brought on by his younger sister’s death, and his resultant alcohol binges. Further emotional challenges escalate Andy’s drinking, however, leading to an incident with Shelbi that results in potentially friendship-ending consequences. Through conversational dialogue, empathetic third-person narration, and realistic depictions of two teens navigating mental health issues and associated stigma, Stone (Dear Justyce) offers an honest work that highlights the importance of mental illness advocacy amid societal preconceptions and pressures. An author’s note contextualizes instances of self-harm and suicide; resources conclude. Most characters are Black. Ages 14–up. (Feb.)