The Headmaster’s List

Roaring Brook. Feb. 2023. 400p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250827388.
Gr 10 Up–Spencer Sandoval, 18, was top of her class and one of several students chosen for the coveted “Headmaster’s List.” She had a plan, and nothing was going to get in the way of her attending her dream college, CalTech. That is, until the night her boyfriend Ethan cheated on her and drove recklessly, resulting in the crash that killed fellow classmate Chris. Unable to remember the crash, Spencer struggles with a developing anxiety disorder that requires her to have a service dog and she relies heavily on Vicodin to manage her pain. A school crime podcast starts rumors about what really happened the night of the crash, and everyone seems to agree that with Ethan’s history of reckless driving, it was most certainly his fault. But despite her heartbreak, Spencer believes that something else happened that night. Why else would she get into a car with Ethan moments after breaking up with him? And why was Chris in the car in the first place? The unanswered questions lead Spencer down a rabbit hole of detective work, all while balancing college admissions, fractured friendships, and a budding romance. Readers who have experienced physical or emotional trauma will relate to Spencer’s struggle to adjust to her new reality. This is a compelling, if predictable thriller. The cast of characters is diverse, including a protagonist who is Black and several LGBTQIA+ supporting characters. Depictions of underage drinking, taking prescription medication, and reckless driving make this an appropriate title for mature readers.
VERDICT With relatable teen protagonists and a satisfying conclusion, this is an essential purchase for teen collections.

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