Counselor Nak, Mr. Nakatani, has a new job.In a jurisdiction covering three school districts, there has been a streak of tragedy in the past year with two suicides and “one major racial incident.”“Kids will make it if they get a chance to work things through” is the hope the hiring authorities are hanging on to. So, Nak meets his kids and begins to get to know them. We meet six of them, beginning with the pair of Sarah Byrne and Angus Bethune. If you’ve read any of Chris Crutcher’s books , the names may be familiar to you. In this case, they are picking up where we left their lives, and Angus is going to try to help Sarah face her mother and perhaps talk her into telling the truth to a judge about the burns on Sarah’s face. The two kids are facing serious trust issues and the consequences of angry choices. Sarah’s father purposely held her face to a hot stove leaving her with a deeply scarred face and spirit.Angus eats his way through life, or at least he did until he met Sarah, and now he thinks about changing his habits and trying an exercise routine.They are looking for somewhere to live where they won’t be judged on their appearances.
Montana West and Trey Chase are the second pair. Montana’s foster father is the head of the school board and a control freak.Trey has had a few run-ins with the law and now lives with his grandmother, Mari, who is fighting cancer and offering her support to Montana when Montana's father turns away their younger foster child, Tara, who so needs a family to hold on to.
Finally, we meet Matt Miller and Marcus James.Marcus is a gay, black teenager who is bullied by the local trash.Matt is a Christian teenager who looks closely at the evidence after Marcus is murdered and then struggles to forgive the authorities who turn a blind eye and the young men who got away with a hate crime.
The dialogue is wittier than most teens could ever expect to be but the truths are searing and the mirror he holds up may be the most hope a young person will ever get from a book if they see themselves and find their way through.The humor lightens the harshness of the stories some of which may only be revealing the tip of the iceberg of young people’s difficult lives. 246 pages Ages 14 and up