Mariah Fredericks, . . Atheneum/Jackson, $15.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-689-85092-9

Sari is "hot." Jess is not. This difference has never mattered to the best friends, who met in seventh grade. But once they begin their freshman year at Eldridge Alternative High School, Sari's looks begin to attract negative attention from the "Prada Mafia," led by Erica Trager, and positive attention from senior soccer star David Cole. Jess's insightful first-person narration chronicles how the spotlight begins to affect first Sari, and then their friendship. As the novel progresses, Jess comes to understand the true meaning of cleavage—the way it divides the two friends ("You think of breasts as being a pair, but I guess cleavage really means the part in between. The separation"). The pacing quickens as Sari becomes infatuated with David, who is part of the ideal couple with his "Miss Perfect Popular" girlfriend, a senior. After Sari becomes sexually involved with David, Jess carries the burden of perceiving things clearly and realizing that if she tells Sari her suspicions (that David is merely using Sari), she will lose her friendship. To newcomer Fredericks's credit, no one here is a stock character (save for, perhaps, Erica)—Jess slips from being the model best friend, Sari comes through as sympathetic and even David has his moments of humanity (Jess shares an art class with David and sees another side to him). Readers may be left wondering what Sari and Jess have learned from their rifts and reparations, but this author clearly knows the psyche of adolescents. Readers will keep turning the pages. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)