Shapiro uses the story of an illicit tryst to launch a labyrinthine, years long plot in this novel. Seventeen-year-old Noah Beemer and his girlfriend, Eva Silver-Adams, are the star couple at Woodstock Tudorsville Union High School in Vermont, but when a new history teacher, 23-year-old Esme Linde, starts teaching classes, Noah is instantly smitten. One thing leads to another, and soon he and Esme are secretly meeting to have sex. Eva soon figures out what’s going on and reveals everything on social media. Soon, the school administration gets involved, and later, Noah’s father, Saul, a very powerful lawyer with big plans for his son’s future, forces Esme to get out of Noah’s life—and to get a whole new identity. But Esme, now Hazel Prynne, gets back in touch with Noah nine years later. The busy, complicated plot eventually involves, among many others, Jerry Donoghue, a sleazy but morally zealous PI; and Dougie, Eva’s younger brother, who sets out to avenge her honor. There’s something about this morally challenging story that recalls Greek myths, with its tale of an illicit relationship and the destruction that follows in its wake; it will have some readers waiting for the Furies to arrive. The characters are each complicated in their own right and often have good motives that lead to bad ends. Certainly, Esme is a tough character for readers to reckon with: “She didn’t cheat and didn’t lie unless absolutely necessary and never about anything important.” It’s a book that will certainly have readers grappling with its complexities; some readers will be happy at the outcome, others not, but both audiences will be thinking about it long afterward.
A cleverly plotted novel with a fine cast of believable characters.