cover image Chasing Tail Lights

Chasing Tail Lights

Patrick Jones, . . Walker, $16.95 (294pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-9628-8

Jones's (Nailed) proficiency at message-driven novels with hot teen issues is apparent in this latest offering, in which rape, drugs, sexual harassment and poverty take center stage. Living in economically depressed Flint, Mich., is hard enough for 17-year-old Christy, even without her horrible secret: as readers eventually learn, her older brother, Ryan, has been raping her since she was in sixth grade. “Everybody's got their secrets,” she declares. “I carry mine like a jagged stone inside my shoe.” Her friends make plans to go away to college, but Christy sees no similar escape route for herself, because her family cannot afford it. A suicide attempt lands Christy in therapy, where she acquires the support she needs to confront Ryan. Incidents from Christy's disturbing past (her father's premature death, a brother's life sentence, etc.) interrupt the main narrative, creating a burdensome structure for a story that already suffers from too many issues. Readers who enjoy problem novels, however, are likely to appreciate Jones's sympathetic depictions of teen culture and to overlook a number of predictable situations in order to cheer on the characters. They will especially identify with Christy as she exacts an unexpected revenge in the cathartic finale. Ages 14-up. (Aug.)