When 17-year-old high school student, Stevie Wales, suddenly blossoms, she and her best friend, the ever-popular Winter, have some adjusting to do. Sometimes, however, adjusting to new information between friends isn’t possible.
In their case, Stevie winds up alienated from Winter and the group in her Puget Sound Island community. She decides to become what she believes they all see – the weird girl. As her oddity status rises, so does her anger. When she takes a job at an equine therapy ranch, tending the horses used in the program, she discovers her unusual ability to take away pain in both animals and humans.
As she begins to feel needed, she lets go of some of that anger, but then, an accident with one of the horses leaves Stevie seriously injured. Her life becomes a twisted version of an already blurry existence as she struggles to find “normal” again.
Stevie embarks on a journey to find her father, a man the world believes dead. She convinces her mother and therapist that she needs to go to Australia, the place where the wreckage of her father’s boat washed ashore. Her search takes her to a strange continent, and though this exploration becomes much, much more, she may find a truth she isn’t ready to accept.
Despite being set in a not-so-distant future, Stevie’s teenage world isn’t so different from now. Mean girls are still mean girls, and the smart, shy students often feel like they don’t belong. So many teenagers, both male and female, may find Stevie’s (partially self-imposed) alienation relatable. Her artistic talents and her empathy for others are endearing traits that help bring Stevie to a culminating awareness. Both of these carry Stevie full-circle to find her version of normal, her definition – not the world’s. Seeing Stevie evolve into a confident young woman through her efforts is nothing short of inspirational.
While Stevie can take away the pain of others, she struggles to keep her gift and the consequences of using it a secret. However, it is only when she stops trying to keep it under wraps, is she able to heal herself as well as those around her.
One of the most engaging parts of the novel is Stevie’s time in Australia. This exotic, culturally diverse continent becomes a character unto itself, drawing Stevie into the adventure of a lifetime while giving her the closure she desperately needs. Pulled into the mysterious murder of a boy she meets, Stevie encounters others who inspire and help her find her father. She learns true contentment by assisting the family of the dead boy all while searching for her own history. Ironically, amid death, she finds life as she navigates a land as wild as her emotions.