Title: Ripple by Heather Smith Meloche
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program
When their too-adult lives lead them down self-destructive paths, these broken teens find a way to heal in this YA novel perfect for fans of Ellen Hopkins
With her impossible-to-please grandmother on her back about college and her disapproving step-dad watching her every move, Tessa would do anything to escape the pressure-cooker she calls home. So she finds a shot of much-needed power and confidence by hooking up with boys, even though it means cheating on her boyfriend. But when she’s finally caught red-handed, she’ll do anything she can to cover up what she’s done.
Jack is a prankster who bucks the system every chance he gets—each transgression getting riskier and riskier. He loves the thrill, and each adventure allows a little release because his smug smile and suave demeanor in the face of authority doesn’t make life at home with his mom any less tough. He tries to take care of her, but the truth is he’s powerless in the face of her fragile mental health. So he copes in his own way, by defacing public property and pulling elaborate pranks, though he knows in the end this’ll only screw up his life even more.
As they both try not to let their self-destructive patterns get the best of them, Tessa and Jack gravitate toward one another, discovering the best parts of themselves in the process. An honest portrayal of the urges that drive us and finding the strength to overcome them, Ripple is a stunning debut from a powerful new voice.
Ripple by Heather Smith Meloche is a gritty young adult novel about two teenagers who turn to self-destructive behavior in an attempt to cope with their troubled home lives.
Tessa Leighton is crushed by the weight of her grandmother’s expectations to take over the family business. Now beginning her senior year of high school, her future seems inescapable as she feels increased pressure to turn in her college application to the university selected by her grandmother. This just adds to the other stress she feels living with an alcoholic stepfather whose verbal abuse has shredded her self-worth which is already precarious due to her biological father’s complete lack of involvement in her life. Despite having a popular boyfriend, Tessa uses sex with strangers to feel better about herself. While she is careful to select partners away from her small town in an effort to keep her liaisons secret, Tessa knows she is one casual encounter away from discovery.
New student Jack Dalton’s coping mechanism is a series of endless pranks that are harmless but are still considered petty crimes. After a family tragedy, his parents divorced and he began taking care of his brilliant but mentally ill mother. Trying to keep her worsening condition hidden from everyone, Jack not only takes care of her but he also works a couple of jobs to keep money coming in on a regular basis. When the stress gets to be too much for him, he blows off steam by plotting and carrying out another one of his shenanigans. Charming and insightful, Jack immediately recognizes a kindred spirit when he meets Tessa and they form an unlikely and sometimes rocky friendship.
Dealing with real life issues such as mental illness, alcoholism and financial struggles, Ripple is a heartbreakingly poignant young adult novel. Heather Smith Meloche deftly handles difficult subject matter with sensitivity in a forthright manner. Jack and Tessa are realistically developed protagonists who make terrible choices but this is fairly common with most teenagers. The storyline is often heartrending but Tessa and Jack’s character growth is absolutely phenomenal and incredibly gratifying. I highly recommend this emotionally compelling young adult novel to adult and older teen readers.