Union Square & Co. Jan. 2024. 256p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781454951308.
Gr 8 Up–Tess’s dad died a while ago, and now her mother lost her job, so they have no choice but to move back to Mom’s childhood home in Hawthorne. Under her grandparents’ roof, church is a must. Tess joins the Grace Presbyterian youth group and finds she really enjoys her new friends and singing in the choir. Upon discovering she is pregnant, the scared teen confides in her mom, who supports her choice to have an abortion. Despite traveling to an out-of-town clinic for more privacy, Tess begins receiving disparaging messages on her phone, and a red letter “A” is spray-painted onto her school locker. Her youth group friends shun her, and as soon as the town gossip gets back to her grandparents, she and her mother are no longer welcome there. Meanwhile, Tess has not shared the identity of the baby’s father with anyone. This modern remix of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne takes on the misogyny, abuse, and hypocrisy that can take place in some strict religious circles. Although Tess endures being slut-shamed, vilified, and repeatedly maligned, she digs deep—determined to keep moving forward. Another musical venture brings new friends into her radius, while the convincing plot positions the abortion as only part of her story, rather than something that defines the rest of her life. Readers will feel gratified as Tess gradually finds ways to speak up about multiple misdeeds perpetrated against her.
VERDICT An encouraging view of finding ways to connect and climb again post-trauma.

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