Wrecked, by Heather Henson (2022)
TW: Descriptions of drug manufacturing, use, and addiction
Full disclosure - I have a personal connection to this book! Along with the author, Heather Henson, my friend Elizabeth Haigh has received an NEA grant to fund a very cool collaborative project (in Kentucky).
From Elizabeth: "Heather will read from her YA novel while I cue sounds and original music to augment the experience. We'll present this at two public high schools, where she'll do writing workshops, and I'll do sound design workshops. Students will then create their own soundscape, which will become interactive displays at the local library."
This book stems from Shakespeare's The Tempest, but isn't so much a retelling of that story as it is, in the author's words, a jumping off point (but don't worry if you're not familiar with the play - it's a great story without that background knowledge).
Wrecked / The Tempest character comparison:
Miri, female teen protagonist = Miranda, same
Fen, male teen protagonist = Ferdinand, same
Poe, aka "The Wizard," Miri's father = Prospero, magician, Miranda's father
Clay, family friend, Poe's employee = Caliban, Prospero's disfigured servant
Miri, her father Poe, and his girlfriend Angel live an isolated life in the hills of rural Kentucky. Miri is a motorcycle enthusiast, and spends her time building and maintaining them in the garage, and dreaming of her 18th birthday, when she plans to leave town. She also works hard to actively ignore what her family does for a living. Poe is known locally as "The Wizard" because of his business making and selling meth. Angel assists in the lab, while Clay helps patrol the area to keep out trespassers.
When Miri meets a new-to-town classmate, Fen, the two strike up a fast friendship, quickly leading to a young-love romance. Fen has just moved from Detroit, where he lived with his mother, to live with his father, who only recently moved to the area himself - doing some mysterious job that we don't learn about until much later. Fen loves Miri's passion for motorcycles, and knowledge of nature and the hills that surround them. Miri loves Fen's obsession with sound. He records sounds everywhere he goes and creates "soundscapes" on his computer - combinations of city sounds from Detroit, voices, birdsong, etc.
In the background is Clay, quietly pining for Miri, and trying to find his own way. He grew up with a mother who was a meth maker, user, and seller (now in prison), and though he's never done the stuff himself, his upbringing and current employment situation do not set him up for success.
All the disparate emotions and motivations of these characters lead eventually to an explosive combination. Wrecked is an absorbing, fast-paced, character-driven story that is great for a YA audience (though maybe a YA audience on the older end, given the descriptions of drug manufacturing, use, and addiction). My only complaint is that I think the story wrapped up too quickly. There is a series of about six major revelations that all happen on one page, which made the thoughtfully-paced novel feel rushed at the end, and left me with questions about the specifics of those revelations. I think the book could have been maybe just one chapter longer, to stretch out the surprise twist and the climactic conclusion.
All in all, though, a really fun read with very likable and relatable characters!
A few links, including my friend's SoundCloud page with the piece she made inspired by the book:
Heather Henson, author
Elizabeth Haigh, music and sound design
UP NEXT: A Botanist's Guide to Parties & Poisons, by Kate Khavari