High school junior Grace Pierce loves photography. She likes the way you can “freeze the world just the way you want it,” and she aspires to win the National Foundation of the Arts Student Photography Contest in order to be recognized at a public show in New York City as an up-and-coming artist. Grace’s plan falls apart when her mother’s financial investments firm is unexpectedly raided by the FBI. Charged with fraudulent business practices, her mother, Janelle, has a massive stroke, resulting in months of intensive and rehabilitative care. Suddenly the Golden Girl, who was the “face” of her mother’s Ponzi-scheme Family Fund, discovers that she hardly knew her mom. She also finds herself under suspicion by the FBI as well as by her friends, their parents, and community members who invested their savings in the Fund.
As Grace tears apart their house looking for evidence that will clear her mom and locate the missing millions, she stumbles across even more mysteries. In an effort to clear her mind of feelings of betrayal and deceit, she sets off on a bus trip from her home in Arizona to Ridgway, Colorado, to recreate a hiking trip often referenced by her mom. Sam Waters, a classmate whose mom invested her life savings in the Family Fund, shadows Grace until she boards the bus. From that point forward, he never lets her out of his sight, convinced that she is on her way to retrieve the missing money.
This is a fascinating story–well-written, fast-paced, and timely. Teenagers (and other readers) will relate to the quickly changing dynamics of friendships, family ties and romantic liaisons that Grace experiences. It has its share of mildly offensive language and a few religious profanities. There is one brief sexual assault attempt on the bus that is quickly dispatched by Sam.