A Better Bad Idea

Imprint. Mar. 2021. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250225955.
Gr 9 Up–Evelyn is desperate to leave her trailer park and McNair Falls, yet bound to stay to protect her little sister from their mother’s abusive boyfriend. Ashton, the town’s tarnished golden boy, is haunted by his toxic relationship with girlfriend Reid and has a growing dependence on alcohol. Reid knows how to exploit everyone’s weaknesses, and is the girl Evelyn wishes she could be—and she’s already dead when the novel begins. While avoiding her dark home life, Evelyn comes across Ashton, drunk, grieving, and angry in the woods. His fire fuels her own and suddenly Evelyn can no longer allow violence to continue in her home. Inflamed with booze, they stumble towards consequences each cannot face and choose to run away instead. What follows is a twisted tale of deception and self-discovery that careens toward an unavoidable fate. Devore’s novel is rife with drama, hurtling along at a breakneck pace, though the alternating perspectives confuse the narrative and it takes too long to become invested in the characters. Some, such as Evelyn’s mother and sister, are treated like props without personalities. Devore brings to light what different abusive relationships look like and the complicated effects they can have on people, but the character development is left wanting and the ending wraps up too conveniently. Main characters are white.
VERDICT For collections seeking books that deal with domestic and other types of abuse in relationships, A.S. King’s Still Life with Tornado or Amber Smith’s The Last To Let Go are better choices.

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