My second January Book of the Month selection was The Most Dangerous Place On Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson. I am a bit of a sucker for teenage drama, and this book is centered around a cyberbullying incident. Cyberbullying has become such a huge part of adolescence but I haven’t seen the jump from real life to the literary world quite yet. I was excited to read a book that really shows what current children and teenagers need to deal with in this new age of technology.
The story begins with a class of kids in the eighth-grade in a very affluent California town. Cally Broderick is the main focus, a pretty and popular girl who is blowing off her homework and trying to attract attention from the most popular boy in school, Ryan Harbinger. We are also introduced to Cally’s best friend, Abigail Cress, who is described as the stereotypical mean girl. Finally, we meet Tristan Bloch who is billed as the classic outcast. He doesn’t dress like the other kids, he spends his time with the school counselor, and his mom is very overbearing. He tries to connect with Cally, but in her naive desire to fit in, she shares his heartfelt note with Abigail and Ryan which leads to cyber bullying. The cyber bullying eventually ends in Tristan tragically taking his own life.
After eighth-grade, we jump to the Junior year of this class of kids. Each chapter switches POV between different students and their brand new English teacher, Molly Nicoll. We meet a lot more of the students in the class then we did in the eighth-grade chapter. We see how Tristan’s death affects each of them. Cally now goes by Calista and has become a hippie-beach kid. Abigail is in a relationship with one of her teachers and has Ivy League dreams. We also meet drug addict Damon Flintov, drug dealer Nick Brickston, dancer Emma Fleed, stressed out Dave Chu, and quiet Elisebeth Avarine.
These chapters are cut with Molly Nicoll intensely trying to connect with these students, bordering on and then falling into inappropriate territory. All of these personal stories lead up to a party gone out of control and a car accident which affects five of the students. This is really the climax of the story. We check back in on Cally and some classmates in her senior year but nothing big really happens.
I felt like this story had a lot of good components. I liked the shifting POV and interconnecting story. But a lot of things just didn’t come together for me. I would’ve liked a mirror of characters in the eighth-grade chapter and the junior chapter. I felt like a lot of characters were introduced that I didn’t quite care about because I didn’t know them before their stories. There were also a lot of stereotypes that didn’t work for me, bad boys – Damon, Ryan, and Nick, and Dave Chu the Asian kid who has huge expectations on his shoulders. I also don’t know why the Senior year chapter was included, I don’t see a lot of reasoning for that. And I wanted more consequences after the car crash, the person who deals with it most is Emma Fleed, a character we aren’t invested in.
The story is intriguing and fast moving, but I feel like it could have been so much more.