An insightful, raw YA novel about a young photographer navigating toxic relationships and how they influence her identity
Sixteen-year-old Arden Grey is struggling. Her mother has left their family, her father and her younger brother won't talk about it, and a classmate, Tanner, keeps harassing her about her sexuality—which isn't even public. (She knows she likes girls romantically, but she thinks she might be asexual.) At least she's got her love of film photography and her best and only friend, Jamie, to help her cope. Then Jamie, who is trans, starts dating Caroline, and suddenly he isn't so reliable. Arden's insecurity about their friendship grows. She starts to wonder if she's jealous or if Jamie's relationship with Caroline is somehow unhealthy—and it makes her reconsider how much of her relationship with her absent mom wasn't okay, too. Filled with big emotions, first loves, and characters navigating toxic relationships, Ray Stoeve's honest and nuanced novel is about finding your place in the world and seeking out the love and community that you deserve.
About the Author
Ray Stoeve is the author of the young adult novel Between Perfect and Real, which was a 2021 Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. They also contributed to the young adult anthology Take the Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance. They received a 2016–2017 Made at Hugo House Fellowship and created the YA/MG Trans and Nonbinary Voices Masterlist, a database that tracks all books in those age categories written by trans authors about trans characters. When they’re not writing, they can be found gardening, making art in other mediums, or hiking their beloved Pacific Northwest.
"Refreshingly, all the conflict involves realistic interpersonal dynamics, with transphobia and other oppressions taking a back seat. The patient unraveling of Arden’s friendships and relationships, as well as the neatly wrapped up resolution, feels simultaneously expected and deeply satisfying, and while neither of the abusers is given much complexity, the depictions of the dynamics involved can help readers identify toxic relationships in their own lives."
— Kirkus Reviews
"Readers will see that Arden is on a painstaking path to a better her, and there are a lot of promising signs that she’ll get there."
— The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Stoeve addresses the contours of emotional abuse with subtlety and grace, and Arden’s personal journey, which takes a hopeful turn, will appeal greatly to fans of character-driven stories."
"The author deftly handles the main issues in Arden’s life, offering readers representation, recognition, and hope. . .Arden’s experiences with an emotionally abusive mother, losing her best friend to a controlling partner, and understanding her own asexuality will have wide appeal for realistic fiction fans.?"
— School Library Journal