A heartbreaking urban romance from award-winning author Paul Griffin
Fifteen-year-olds Cece and Mack didn't expect to fall in love. She's a sensitive A student; he's a high school dropout. But soon they're spending every moment together, bonding over a rescued dog, telling their secrets, making plans for the future. Everything is perfect. Until Mack makes a horrible mistake, and suddenly the future they'd planned becomes impossible. In this stark new reality, both of them must find hope in the memories of what they had, to survive when the person they love can't stay.
In a narrative spanning 102 days, Mack and C Ce, co-workers at a restaurant and co-narrators of the story, are set up by C Ce's brother, Anthony, and slowly hit it off. C Ce is heartbroken when Anthony joins the army, leaving her alone with their alcoholic mother, whose condition Griffin (The Orange Houses) delicately conveys with profound emotion. Mack, whose mother left him with a bitter alcoholic father, is gentle with the dogs he trains, but he's mentally disturbed psychologically tormented by a hissing noise, "Like when you roll the radio to static and dial up the volume." When the hissing gets loud, generally as a reaction to injustice, Mack turns chillingly violent. As tension builds, readers will likely anticipate that this violence will ignite the conflict that brings Mack and C Ce's relationship to an end, but each step of that journey is authentic, painful, and heartfelt. Griffin's gift at giving voice to deeply flawed, disadvantaged characters without patronizing or oversimplifying their circumstances shines in this moving novel of loss, acceptance, and the possibility of redemption. Ages 14 up.