In this haunting and hopeful debut novel, a teen's court-mandated psychiatric residency prompts a change in perspective from which there is no looking back.
Taylor Truwell is a sixteen-year-old girl from Florida with a troubled past, a neglectful mother, a seemingly callous father, and an urge to flee. When Taylor is caught with a stolen car, her violent reaction lands her in court for resisting arrest. Her father convinces the judge of an alternative to punishment: treatment in a juvenile psychiatric correctional facility. And so Taylor arrives at Sunny Meadows.
Sunny Meadows is anything but the easy way out, and Taylor has to fight hard just to hold on to her sanity as she battles her parents, an intrusive therapist, and a group of particularly nasty fellow patients. But even as Taylor clings to her stubborn former self, she gradually relents to new friendships--and to unexpected romance. Sunny Meadows goes against everything Taylor stands for. But could it be the place that saves her?
In this striking debut, Laura Lascarso weaves together a powerful story of anger and self-destruction, hope and love, and the complicated way that it all comes together.
Three weeks ago I tried to run away from home. Now all I want is to go back.
With my thumbnail I etch my name--TAYLOR--on the blue vinyl seat in front of me, over and over in the exact same spot, because the impression lasts only as long as it takes to get from T to R. I try to keep my mind blank, but I keep thinking about the last time I saw my mom. It was two days ago in the courtroom, where she sat, silent as a turtle, while my father asked the judge's permission for me to carry out my probation in a "maximum-security facility" where I could receive "intense psychiatric care." And the judge, who doesn't know me at all, agreed.
I pull the Sunny Meadows brochure from my pocket and smooth out the creases left over from when my dad first gave it to me and I crushed it into a ball. According to the brochure, Sunny Meadows is a "therapeutic boarding school" in the business of "creating bright futures for exceptional youth," but there's nothing exceptional about what it takes to get into this place--anger, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, ADHD, OCD . . . The list goes on and on, but none of that is me. I'm normal. I'm fine.
The transport van exits off the interstate in Valdosta, and I stick my nose to the cracked window to get some fresh air because I suddenly feel nauseous. It's October now, but the weather is still hot and muggy. I study the landscape of gently rolling pastures as we wind down country roads. I catalog landmarks and signs--New Light Baptist Church, Shady Pines Mobile Home Park, a flaking billboard that says JESUS LOVES YOU. There's no map on the brochure and no address either, "for privacy reasons," but I need to know where they're taking me, just in case I have to find my own way out.
The van pulls into a long, paved driveway, and my chest tightens as my eyes meet with a massive wrought-iron gate.
A gate. A guard. And a chain-link fence that surrounds the campus on all sides. That photo was not in the brochure. The fence seems even higher than the one at juvie. As the gate opens, my heart flutters and I massage the knot in my chest, trying to loosen it up, trying to breathe.
The driveway snakes through a huge lawn and dead-ends at a three-story brick building. Spanish moss clings to the branches of the live oak trees and beckons like little ghost hands. The dormitory and its surrounding buildings could pass for any number of private, Southern boarding schools. If it weren't for all the fences.
An escort walks me from the van to the lobby, where I see my dad standing on the other side of the metal detectors. My mom's not with him, and I remind myself I don't care because I'm mad at her anyway. Our eyes meet, and for a moment I have this impulse to run to him so he can hold me tight and tell me everything is going to be all right.
But nothing is right anymore.
Once I'm through the metal detectors, another woman calls me by name, and it sounds cold and robotic on her lips. She motions me into a smaller room, where I recognize my two duffel bags sitting on top of a long, stainless-steel table. They're both unzipped, and a man wearing latex gloves is rifling through my stuff like it's his and not mine.
"Have a seat, Ms. Truwell," the woman says, and presents me with a chair. "Take out your braid. I need to check your head for lice."
I sit down and unravel my braid, letting my long black hair fall...