Run fast and run far, unless you’re fearless. Unless you’re courageous. I’m not, but I’d like to be. Pearl Jaeger is seventeen and homeless after drugs, poverty, and addiction unraveled the life she shared with JJ, her formerly glamorous rock star mother. This moment of happiness is fleeting; someone will take it from me. When tragedy brings a chance to start over at an elite boarding school, she doesn’t hesitate. Yet the only salvation comes from an art teacher as troubled as Pearl, and she faces the stark reality that what she thought she wanted isn’t straightforward. I trace the outline of my reflection in a window. I am no more than a replica of my mother. This is not the self-portrait I want to paint. Through the friendships she forms at school—especially with Grant, a boy who shows Pearl what it means to trust and forgive—she begins to see a path not defined by her past. But when confronted with the decision to be courageous or to take the easy way forged by her mother’s failures, which direction will Pearl choose?
What worked:This is an edgy dream-like portrayal of a teen coming to grips with her own life after a tragedy has her taken away from her mother. A former rock star, Pearl's mother now is a drug addict. The images are raw, intense, and painful. The neglect and dangerous situations Pearl's mother leaves her in would scar anyone.
Another interesting insight is how not only Pearl but others assume she'll follow in her mother's footsteps. One character, Terran, goes out of her way to make Pearl's life miserable and threatens to expose her past. And Pearl does struggle with the world of drugs. Those scenes are intense.
Hall gives a pretty accurate portrayal of Sorel with her bipolar behavior. Her ups and downs and how she thumbs her nose up at her rich upbringing were very authentic. I wanted to see more of her!
One thing that did bug me was how passive Pearl was through most of this novel. She seemed to be sleep walking through her life. I get that maybe this was her way of dealing with a neglectful mother and being exposed to drugs, alcohol and worse at an early age. More than a few times I wanted to yell, "Don't do it!" She seemed almost too impressible at times.
Some of the scenes at the boarding school go by really fast. As does the summer school scenes which are mostly feel like a drug induced daze. The strength has to be after the climax when Pearl has to rise above the drugs and decide what she wants to be.
Raw insight into a world of drugs and alcohol and a girl that needs to choose to have the courage to rise above it.