His Favorites by Kate Walbert [in Booklist]
Steely and controlled, narrator Gabra Zackman embodies a young woman’s harrowing crisis, ensuring not a single moment of the brief production can be ignored. At 15, Jo’s unremarkable life as just another teen in her suburban Maryland town is forever shattered when she kills her best friend in a drunken golf-cart joyride disaster.
To escape a future as the local pariah, she’s shuttled off to an elite Massachusetts boarding school. Tormented by tragedy, Jo becomes an ideal target for Master Aiken’s attentions. Popular and charming, the English teacher chooses “his favorites” carefully, calculating vulnerability with practiced ease.
As if harnessing the frustration and rage of the #MeToo movement, Zackman’s impressive narration feels just on the edge of containment, as if an outburst is a mere phrase or sentence away. Her characterization of pack mentality – of teenage girls, of judgmental communities, of manipulative men in charge – underscores a powerfully resonating performance that proves undeniably timely.
Review: “Media,” Booklist, March 1, 2010