Best-selling Picoult and Boylan team up for this timely, gripping story about a teen accused of murdering his girlfriend. Olivia McAfee fled her abusive husband, hoping to protect their then six-year-old son, Asher. Olivia brings them to the New Hampshire farm where she was raised, and Asher grows up to be a thoughtful, popular teen. When Asher starts dating a new girl in town named Lily, Olivia is happy for him, until she gets a horrific call from Asher who tells her that Lily is dead after falling down a flight of stairs. Suspicion immediately lands on Asher as he was the only person at the house with Lily when she fell while the two were in the middle of an argument. Asher is swiftly arrested, and Olivia calls in her brother, Jordan, a defense attorney longtime Picoult readers will recognize from some of her previous books, including Nineteen Minutes (2007), to defend Asher. The courtroom drama makes for gripping reading; a reveal about Lily at the midway point adds another dimension to the case, and Olivia grapples with the possibility that her son could take after her ex-husband more than he does her. This timely and absorbing read will make readers glad these two powerful writers decided to collaborate.HIGH DEMAND BACKSTORY: Perennially popular novelist Picoult and Boylan, known for her fiction and seminal works about the transgender experiences, will bring in droves of intrigued readers.
The shocking murder of a teenager thrusts a small town into the headlines and destabilizes the lives of everyone who knew her. Olivia McAfee, a professional beekeeper and single mother, fled Boston and an abusive husband to try to give her son, Asher, a better life in small-town New Hampshire. Things go well for their first 12 years in Adams. Asher is a well-liked senior and captain of the high school hockey team; he barely remembers his abusive father; he and his mother have a great relationship; and he's preparing to go off to college. Then he meets Lily Campanello, a new girl who, like his mother, has fled a troubled past. Things get very serious quickly; then, one afternoon after they've had a fight, Asher finds Lily dead at the bottom of her basement stairs. Before he even has time to grieve, he's arrested and charged with her murder. What follows is a long and public courtroom trial in which everyone's secrets are exposed and even his own mother begins to question his innocence. Told in two storylines--one Olivia's, in the present, and one Lily's, going backward from the day of her murder--the novel is well plotted but sometimes feels long-winded, including characters who don't have much significance and details that don't seem relevant. It takes a while for the book to get moving, but once the trial begins, it becomes more compelling, and the courtroom scenes are where the writing shines brightest. The characters aren't as well developed as they should be, though, often feeling wooden or monochromatic--some always say the right thing while others always say or do the wrong thing--and the ending is predictable. A well-paced story that highlights several timely issues, with a stimulating courtroom trial that makes it worth reading. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Picoult (Wish You Were Here) joins forces with novelist and transgender activist Boylan (Long Black Veil) for a spellbinding yarn involving a teen's trial for murder. Beekeeper Olivia McAfee fled her abusive husband in Boston for New Hampshire with her six-year-old son, Asher. Twelve years later, Asher is charged with murdering his high school girlfriend, Lily, a newcomer to town. The story unfolds from Olivia and Lily's viewpoints (Lily's before the murder), and centers on the budding relationship between Asher and Lily and the subsequent court case against Asher, who is represented by Olivia's older brother, Jordan, a high-profile defense attorney who has appeared in previous Picoult novels. Both teens have troubled relationships with their fathers, and the authors painstakingly explore the impact of physically and emotionally abusive men on their families. After a big reveal in the second half, the canvas stretches to include a primer on transgender issues, and the shift is mostly seamless though sometimes didactic. More successful is the atmospheric texture provided with depictions of Olivia harvesting honey and the art of beekeeping, and the riveting trial drama. Overall, it's a fruitful collaboration. (Oct.)