A Long Stretch of Bad Days

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. Mar. 2023. 368p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063230361.
Gr 9 Up–Lydia Chass is a serious overachiever: volunteering, extracurriculars, extra coursework, even her own podcast, On the Ground in Flyover Country. Bristal Jamison is nothing like Lydia, but she’s determined to be the first high school graduate in her family. When a counselor’s mistake leaving both seniors a half-credit short of graduation turns into a team effort to revamp Lydia’s podcast to focus on local history, the girls begin researching a series of 1994 events known in Henley as the “long stretch of bad days,” when a tornado, a flood, and the town’s only murder occurred within a three-day period. Lydia’s defense attorney father has taught her plenty about the sliding spectrum of morality, but it becomes harder to stand up for what she knows is right when it becomes clear that someone is willing to resort to violence again to keep certain truths about the long stretch hidden, leaving Bristal and Lydia to decide how much the truth is really worth. McGinnis’s ability to take readers on an emotional rollercoaster is on full display here; Lydia and Bristal’s magnetic (entirely platonic) chemistry shifts smoothly but instantly from laugh-out-loud funny to powerfully somber. Brash yet buoyant Bristal and self-aggrandizing but steel-willed Lydia are wonderfully realistic and entertaining characters, and the mysteries, twists, and secrets they uncover are expertly crafted.
VERDICT Another incredibly wild ride from McGinnis; a first purchase for all teen collections.

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