Nelson, Blake. Phoebe Will Destroy You. Simon & Schuster, 2018. 246. $18.99. ISBN 9781481488167. 14+. P8Q7
What’s a teen to do when he has a successful mom, an author and a college professor, who struggles with alcohol addiction and despite serious professional mistakes, keeps getting another chance? Nick has been in therapy and has a father who supports and loves him. When his mother returns from yet another stint in rehab, the stress in their house prompts his father to send Nick to spend the summer with his Aunt Judy, Uncle Rob, and cousins, Kyle and Emily, in the small beach town of Seaside, Oregon. His dad is trying to help, but Nick has a lot of unresolved feelings about his mom and uncertainty about what his senior year will bring. Seaside is a sleepy town, unlike Eugene, and Nick’s job at his uncle’s car wash, the Happy Bubble, is a routine that gets old. Nick becomes a willing chauffeur for his younger cousin Emily and her friends. At a beach party he sees Phoebe, and his feelings change about what this summer might bring. Phoebe has a reputation among the locals, but that just makes Nick all the more intrigued. He’s going to find out for himself what lies behind this enigmatic young woman.
VERDICT: Blake Nelson creates realistic characters and setting. Nick is someone high school readers will appreciate, understated and earnest, even as he becomes involved with someone who is clearly “wrong” for him. He is no saint, but he’s trying to be righteous through the confusion of change. Nelson depicts the poignant foible of the smartest people to see only what they want to see as opposed to what is true. Even those with Nick’s advantages are not immune. Heartbreak is difficult to write well, but Nelson succeeds.
November 2018 review by Patricia Emerson.