A “tense, taut, and thrilling” (Marie Claire) novel about a teenage girl, a predatory teacher, and a school’s complicity from the highly acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award finalist and author of A Short History of Women—“riveting, terrifying, exactly the book for our times” (Ann Patchett).
They were on a lark, three teenaged girls speeding across the greens at night on a “borrowed” golf cart, drunk. The cart crashes and one of the girls lands violently in the rough, killed instantly. The driver, Jo, flees the hometown that has turned against her and enrolls at a prestigious boarding school. Her past weighs on her. She is responsible for the death of her best friend. She has tipped her parents’ rocky marriage into demise. She is ready to begin again, far away from the accident.
“Devastatingly relevant” (Vogue) and “fueled by gorgeous writing” (NPR), His Favorites reveals the interior life of a young woman determined to navigate the treachery in a new world. Told from her perspective many years later, the story coolly describes a series of shattering events and a school that failed to protect her. “Before things turn treacherous, there’s a moment when predation can feel dangerously like kindness…Walbert understands this…His Favorites begs to be read” (Time).
Walbert (A Short History of Women) compresses into this taut, powerful novel one woman's painful recollection of her sexual relationship at age 15 with her 34-year-old high school English teacher. The summer before her sophomore year in 1978, Jo Hadley overturns a golf cart during a late-night drunken joyride, accidentally killing her best friend. Haunted by guilt and a pariah in her hometown, Jo is sent to a private school outside Boston, where Jo's first roommate promptly leaves school following a bullying incident. Jo's time at the school is complicated when she attracts the attention of popular English instructor Master Aikens. As one of Master's favorites, Jo experiences one-on-one mentoring, encouragement, cruelty, plus sex in Jo's dorm room and Master's home and car. Jo informs a school administrator, who questions her credibility and admonishes her, insinuating such accusations damage her future prospects. Jo narrates with brutal honesty, using declarative sentences (Master's preferred style). Her story, filled with rage and regret and intensified by its searing portrait of self-aware, self-destructive teenage girls, provides a case history in male-female relationships built on imbalance of power.