Young Raven had to learn survival skills quickly when her meth-addled parents abandoned her as a child. In Exposed, we meet Raven a few weeks before her 16th birthday, when she’s working as a skilled member of a car theft ring. Her boss, Diesel, saved her from living on the streets and has treated her like family for years, but lately he’s becoming more controlling and unstable. He’s always promised that she could choose to leave when she turned 16, but will Diesel still stay true to his word?
A fast-paced and plot-driven novel, Exposed drops readers directly into the story’s action. Raven’s life is portrayed as gritty and challenging, and it’s not surprising that she wants to abandon her criminal activities and attempt to lead a more normal life. The focus on Raven’s desire to leave results in some of the story’s subplots – such as her complicated romance with classmate Emmett – being disappointingly shortchanged. Many of their pivotal moments (including their first kiss) occur off the page, a questionable choice that doesn’t serve the story well.
Exposed is part of a trilogy including Natasha Deen’s Burned and Sigmund Brouwer’s Unleashed, which feature, respectively, Josie and Jace, Raven’s sidekicks in this book. Both Josie (another homeless kid trying to make ends meet on the street) and Jace (a wealthy teen with secrets to expose and a brother to protect) are interesting characters, and together the trio comprises a fascinating band of misfits. Ages 12+, $9.95 paper 978-1-45980-722-8, 144 pp., Oct. Reviewed from advance reading copy