Goodman's 17 year-old main character Shavonne has many problems including guilt and self-hatred concerning her past. A teen mother, she has had to give up her baby to a foster home and she grieves over it. Also, Shavonne's mother is an addict, and Shavonne has no one who truly loves her, who waits for her, it seems. To make matters worse, Shavonne pushes away all those how try to get close. So fearful and angry, it's hard to imagine how she will ever live on the outside again. The story is hopeful in the end, believably hopeful as she begins to understand her difficult feelings.
I liked the storytelling in this book. One of Goodman's devices is to use nature to provide contrast with the detention setting. One window into nature is the family of geese outside Shavonne's window that becomes her roommate's obsession and integral to the story. Geese mate for life, the girls learn. Geese hatch eggs and protect their young till they grow up, something Shavonne can't imagine in her life.
Later, during an excursion in the facility van, Shavonne and several other residents pass an Amish farm. Shavonne tell us:
It is really quite a scene. The sun hangs just above the distant trees, making the whole field glow. And in the center of this soft orange light is an old-fashioned man and his horse. It's like the world or the earth or whatever is so pleased . . . that it can't help but draw attention and point it out to us.
One wonders what nature might mean to kids who experience so little outside. Do read this book. Goodman does tell a hopeful story that will engage older teens and his use of nature is a lovely part of that.