Dante is a bit of a loner. She doesn’t really socialize well, and add that to the fact that she’s had to move from the city to the suburbs where it seems that movie high school has come to life, and it’s easy to see why she might be miserable. What makes it worse is that the one friend that she had managed to make in the year since moving has just moved herself and appears to have no interest in maintaining contact. It is during this time that Dante meets Parker, a girl who seems to have the same thoughts about the banality of high school that Dante has. Parker and her friends want to change the world, and Dante begins to think that she might want to, as well. What she will come to realize soon enough is that the way one tries to change the world is just as important as the change itself…and that some ways are far more dangerous than others.
Maybe it’s just me, but if I have to read one more book about the precocious, wise-beyond-her-years, well-read teenager, I might really lose it. I’m not saying that teens aren’t well-read. I was. But you better believe that I never once threw that in a teacher or parent’s face like a gauntlet. “Oh, I’ve read all of these. Can I choose a different novel? Aren’t I just so clever, naming myself after Dante Alighieri because I love his Divine Comedy, in its entirety?” Okay, to give Stevenson credit, it was a nice touch that she named herself that, and not her parents. I also really enjoyed that this book subtly explored issues of homosexuality, without making it a Special Message to the Kiddies. For a moment I really thought that Stevenson was going to go the “main character has fooled with someone of the same sex once or twice (aren’t I so edgy?), but ultimately ends up in a nice, safe, heterosexual relationship” route. I’m pleased that this was not the case. Also, it wasn’t twee. I can’t handle a twee novel.
Am I being a bit harsh? Probably. I mean, the book was written in 1968, and so there has to be some disconnect, as I was a teenager in the late 90’s-early 2000’s. It wasn’t a bad book, per say; it’s just that I have read so many that follow the same formula that it kind of makes me want to pull my hair out at the roots. I guess in that respect I am like Dante – I want change but haven’t the first idea how to go about it.