cover image THINGS CHANGE


Patrick Jones, . . Walker, $16.95 (216pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-8901-3

Alternating the perspectives of 16-year-old Johanna and her emotionally disturbed boyfriend, this psychologically involving first novel gives a frank, up-close look at a textbook case of dating violence. Johanna, a straight-A student, has always worked hard to please her controlling parents ("Love in our family was like a bad novel: all tell and no show") but has done little to make herself happy. Then she starts dating the boy least likely to win her parents' approval: ruggedly handsome, outspoken Paul, a senior and a kind of class clown who, Johanna soon learns, vents his anger by hurting himself and others. Predictably, Johanna's life changes drastically as she and Paul become involved. Johanna's passion for her new boyfriend is eclipsed only by her anxiety over hiding the bruises he leaves on her arms. Paul becomes increasingly possessive, insulting and aggressive. Meanwhile, Johanna loses her dignity, her parents' respect and her best friend's trust in order to keep Paul. Chapters told from Johanna's point of view convey a battle between heart and intellect. Paul's narrative reveals deep resentment caused by his father's abandonment and eventual death—especially Paul's letters to him, veiled in humor (they begin, "Dear Dead Dad"). This dark, at times insightful book serves as a warning, depicting the teen scene as it is, rather than how adults would like it to be. The provocative conclusion may well send chills down readers' spines. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)