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Publisher Description

Sometimes the greater good requires the smaller evil.
17-year-old Arman Dukoff can't remember life without anxiety and chronic illness when he arrives at an expensive self-help retreat in the remote hills of Big Sur. He’s taken a huge risk—and two-thousand dollars from his meth-head stepfather—for a chance to "evolve," as Beau, the retreat leader, says.

Beau is complicated. A father figure? A cult leader? A con man? Arman's not sure, but more than anyone he's ever met, Beau makes Arman feel something other than what he usually feels—worthless.

The retreat compound is secluded in coastal California mountains among towering redwoods, and when the iron gates close behind him, Arman believes for a moment that he can get better. But the program is a blur of jargon, bizarre rituals, and incomprehensible encounters with a beautiful girl. Arman is certain he's failing everything. But Beau disagrees; he thinks Arman has a bright future—though he never says at what.

And then, in an instant Arman can't believe or totally recall, Beau is gone. Suicide? Or murder? Arman was the only witness and now the compound is getting tense. And maybe dangerous.

As the mysteries and paradoxes multiply and the hints become accusations, Arman must rely on the person he's always trusted the least: himself.

Young Adult
August 2
Penguin Young Readers Group

Customer Reviews

Caroline_AA ,

I just don’t GET it

I received an ARC of this book from Penguin First Reads in exchange for an honest review.

This was…. a strange book. I want to like it, but ultimately, I just don’t get it. What was the point?

Arman is kind of an outcast. He doesn’t fit in, he’s on all kinds of medications for ADD and anxiety whatnot. He meets this guy, Beau, who invites him to a “retreat”. A couple of sort-of friends come along as well, but otherwise it’s mostly old people.

Then Beau is murdered. Or kills himself. Or maybe he didn’t and Arman is just crazy. Now we spend half the book not sure what is real and what is not, and this is actually very cool. But… the end comes along and we’re left with more questions than answers.

I think people who like really philosophical mind bending books might be into this, but it was just too weird for me. Maybe reading it a second time knowing the ending would give more clues as to what the hell is actually happening in the earlier parts of the book, but I’m not going to waste my time doing that. I honestly only grabbed this book because I was pretty sure the “retreat” was really a cult (and it basically is) and that sort of fascinates me. In the end though, I wish I hadn’t bothered. I wasn’t left satisfied and I still don’t feel like I really know any of the characters.

I just don’t understand what the point of the story was. Not that every story needs to end with an earth shattering, mind opening purpose—I enjoy fluffy books as much as the next reader—but, at least knowing what the hell actually happened is sort of a must for me.

So would I recommend this book? No. Not really. There were some good parts, but overall I was left underwhelmed and without a sense of closure.

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