By Erin Jade Lange
Available now from Bloomsbury Children's
REBEL, BULLY, GEEK, PARIAH is one of those books that unexpectedly sucked me in. Even with the description, I didn't realize what a propulsive thriller this would be. (Possibly because the title sounds like a dramatic story about getting to know each other despite differences - which, to be fair, happens between running from guys with guns.)
Sam just wanted to buy her mom's old violin back from the pawn shop. But she ended up with formerly popular Andi, former football jock and current bully York, and York's little brother Boston in a stolen cop car. They accidentally hit a cop and the other cops started shooting at them. It says something about the current world environment that I didn't immediately twig that the cops were corrupt and the car was full of drugs. (Sam is half black.)
What follows is a mix of misfits hanging out and teens struggling to escape more skilled adversaries. There's plenty of twists and turns as the four try to figure out how to find the real cops and clear their names without ending up dead. Erin Jade Lange does a wonderful job of making the teens concerns seem real. Their worried about their lives, but they get tangled up in more mundane concerns too, like what this will do to their college prospects or whether their parents are missing them.
It's also an opportunity, strangely enough, for Sam to leave her shell. An accident left her scarred as a child, providing an easy taunt for everyone on the playground. She had even more pressure on her because of her home life, where her mom moved in and out of prison due to her addiction. Sam knows firsthand how much damage the drugs they've found can do.
REBEL, BULLY, GEEK, PARIAH is a fast-paced read with appealing characters. Yes, they commit a serious crime, but there are hugely extenuating circumstances and this kids' first instinct is to turn themselves in. What follows certainly kept me turning the pages.