Robin Stevenson, April 2009. Dante was baptized Emily, but she doesn’t feel that the pretty, girly, old-fashioned name suits her now. Her fascination with Dante’s circles of hell leads her to choose his first name for her own, but it’s hard to get her family and friends to remember not to call her Emily.
Dante’s not very happy; she has a hard time making close friends, but doesn’t want to bring her circle of casual stoner acquaintances any closer. Her best friend/closeted girlfriend Beth moved away a few months ago and won’t respond to her emails. Her English teacher taunts her, her father is distant, and her mom really doesn’t understand – she wants Dante to attend a social-skills support group for teenage girls.
Dante reluctantly attends the first meeting and is startled to see Parker, a girl she knows as a local anti-school activist who’s dropped out and lives with her boyfriend. Dante starts spending more and more time with Parker, at first admiring how she doesn’t take crap from anyone, then trying to protect her when it turns out she does, in fact, take quite a lot of crap from her boyfriend – including physical abuse. Their friend Leo has a huge crush on Dante, but Dante has a huge crush on Parker, and she still can’t stop thinking about Beth.
The action climaxes when the four decide to burn down their school. Parker and Dante try to talk the boys out of it, but to no avail, and the school burns to the ground. The book winds up a little too neatly; Dante confesses everything to her parents, realizes Parker is too selfish and manipulative to be a close friend, and decides to power through life on her own, with just the stars for inspiration. The gay content is great – Dante is semi-closeted, but the book’s not about that – it’s about a girl who likes girls but, at the moment, has bigger problems.