Nola wants nothing more than a summer on her own—and a job at an upscale Maine coast resort sounds ideal. She’ll have plenty of beach time between waitressing, some freedom from stresses back home, and the chance to make new friends. Enter Carly, the perfect pal: full of jokes, ideas, energy—and experienced at being away from her mysterious family. But Carly turns out to be much more complicated than the standard summer buddy—her borderline personality can turn on Nola in a flash, and even love becomes a rivalry. As the girls’ instant friendship unhinges by subtle, increasingly powerful turns, the commonplace becomes dramatic—and the outcome unforgettable.
Seventeen-year-old Nola Werth puts aside guilt about leaving her cancer-stricken younger sister at home as she boards a bus intent on having "a scrapbook teen experience in just one summer," with a job waiting tables at a Maine resort. Sarah Dessen fans seem the natural audience for what ensues two months of learning about boys, friends, and where to place the fish fork. Friction is provided in the form of Carly, a girl Nola meets on the bus who quickly worms her way into a job at the same hotel and becomes Nola's roommate. Nola's first-person, present-tense narration is a bit too writerly to be believable: she describes herself as "thinly present"; she and her sister speak to each other in haiku throughout. And though Nola discusses her lack of confidence at length, she easily nails the lead in the end-of-the-summer play that is staged for the guests. Despite these minor flaws, the story has undeniable appeal, in large part because of the tension provided by Carly, who may or may not be a psychopath. Ages 12 up.