Title: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: C
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
An unforgettable cast of characters is unleashed into a realm known for its cruelty—the American high school—in this captivating debut novel.
The wealthy enclaves north of San Francisco are not the paradise they appear to be, and nobody knows this better than the students of a local high school. Despite being raised with all the opportunities money can buy, these vulnerable kids are navigating a treacherous adolescence in which every action, every rumor, every feeling, is potentially postable, shareable, viral.
Lindsey Lee Johnson’s kaleidoscopic narrative exposes at every turn the real human beings beneath the high school stereotypes. Abigail Cress is ticking off the boxes toward the Ivy League when she makes the first impulsive decision of her life: entering into an inappropriate relationship with a teacher. Dave Chu, who knows himself at heart to be a typical B student, takes desperate measures to live up to his parents’ crushing expectations. Emma Fleed, a gifted dancer, balances rigorous rehearsals with wild weekends. Damon Flintov returns from a stint at rehab looking to prove that he’s not an irredeemable screwup. And Calista Broderick, once part of the popular crowd, chooses, for reasons of her own, to become a hippie outcast.
Into this complicated web, an idealistic young English teacher arrives from a poorer, scruffier part of California. Molly Nicoll strives to connect with her students—without understanding the middle school tragedy that played out online and has continued to reverberate in different ways for all of them.
Written with the rare talent capable of turning teenage drama into urgent, adult fiction, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth makes vivid a modern adolescence lived in the gleam of the virtual, but rich with sorrow, passion, and humanity.
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson is a bleak portrait of a privileged group of teens and a first year teacher.
Mill Valley is an upscale small town that appears to be quite tranquil. Yet under the idyllic veneer simmers a seething cauldron of dysfunction for the children of wealthy parents. Beginning with an eighth grade bullying incident that ends in tragedy, the story follows a group of teens who seemingly have everything going for them. Yet, after their participation in the on line bullying of their classmate, their lives go down very dark and depressing paths.
Fast forward to the eleventh grade and several of the friends have gone their separate ways. Yet there is a commonality in their behavior as they continue to make one bad decision after another. The teenagers’ parents seem to make guest appearances in their children’s lives and none of them are aware of what their kids are up to on line or in real life. The few parents who do take an interest in their children’s futures are overbearing with unrealistically high expectations that their kids have no chance of fulfilling.
The overall feel of the novel is that of a collection of short stories since readers only get one chapter from each participants point of view. These chapters are long and somewhat rambling peeks inside their troubled lives. New teacher Molly Nicholl is the only character who narrates more than one chapter and it is quite obvious from the outset she is a little too naive and idealistic to handle her self-destructive students. Like the teenagers she is teaching, Molly does not make the wisest choices as she becomes overly involved in her students’ lives.
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth is a well-written debut novel with a somewhat dark storyline. Lindsey Lee Johnson offers a cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of the decisions made by both teenagers and adults.