Two high school seniors in Las Cruces NM have been tight friends for years. Both have mothers who ran off–one to join a religious cult, the other to fall into a lowlife of alcoholism and its attendant issues. The former has the good fortune of a stable father and other family members, but the latter has a worthless dad and hateful stepmother. Nevertheless she propels herself into a successful academic career and is on track to attend Stanford University when she mysteriously disappears. She leaves a message behind to say she is gone but not missing, so people won’t go looking for her.
Time passes, the left-behind friend sorts out romantic and identity issues, tries to find her missing friend, experiences significant personal growth, etc. Secrets are eventually revealed and a satisfying conclusion to the story develops.
It’s an interesting story, well-told and thoughtful. There is a lot of bad language, including religious profanity; in fact, probably 80% of the pages have one or more instances. There is a somewhat lengthy and explicit sex scene. There is one gay character frustrated by a crush on a straight friend. There is an old geezer repeatedly taking advantage sexually of young women. There is adultery.
The author pays effective tribute to a unique area of the country.