Talk about tough luck. Sixteen-year-old Darlene Mills has yet to catch a break. Raised in a fatherless home with a drug-addicted, alcoholic mother, recently dumped and cheated on by her boyfriend, Darlene is ever in search of a better life for her and her half-brother Jesse. So when her best friend, Genie suggests stealing a car for quick cash, it sounds too good to be true. And it is. Emotionally, socially and economically pressed into grand theft auto, the minute she’s coerced into taking the wheel, Darlene embarks on a desperate mistake that changes the rest of her life.
After her friend turns on her during the arrest, Darlene is sent to the Buckeye Village Correctional Facility for Girls in Ohio, where she soon discovers she has been thrown under the bus by her best friend, taking the full wrap for the crime whilst Genie gets less time for “joy riding.”
Despite her circumstances, things start to look up when she makes a few friends in her dorm and quickly falls head over heels for Darius, one of the facilities workers. Despite having all the girls’ attentions, he makes it a point to flirt with Darlene, which enhances her hopes for more. Her new teacher, Ms. Di Genta, and kindly social worker, Mrs. Brownell, provide a network of safety and comfort she so desperately craves.
But things quickly turn south when her traitorous friend arrives and aligns with the venomous Sophie, who all the girls fear. Coupled with this betrayal, Darlene is subjected to bullying, tormenting, abuse and much to her surprise, faces blackmail and sexual harassment by Darius. The pressure builds when she learns her mother has slipped into a coma and Jesse has been put into foster care. Darlene believes her keys to freedom lie in the opportunity to steal Ms. Di Genta’s car and return to Columbus where she can be with her mother and brother.
The events to follow only lead her further into hardships, but thanks to the one person who believes in her, Ms. Di Genta, she finds her true keys to freedom in facing her aggressors and shedding light on the horrific crime ring taking place at the correctional facility. Despite going it alone for so long, she learns there is some good in the world and people she can trust. Bolstered by this awareness, Darlene summons courage beyond her wildest dreams to forgo the path of running and choosing to confront her fears head on. And these are just some of the reasons I love this book by K.D. Gennaro.