The story takes place during the eventful summer of 1994 in western Michigan as young James Parker just wants to make an awesome movie with his buddies. Everything changes when they meet Mara, the most beautiful girl in the world, who not only changes the course of their summer, but changes their lives forever. The book begins as your usual coming-of-age tale, but as each chapter rolls along, and the atmosphere builds, you slowly begin to realize that you are reading something much more twisted and extraordinary than you originally expected.
Vander Ark's prose is a huge part of why the book works so well. It's gorgeous and really carries you through this ultimately haunting story of obsession and growing-up the way a great book can. When he details the awesome scene where James and the other neighborhood boys are listening silently in the trees one night as the mysterious girl finishes her hypnotic singing lessons at home, he writes THIS magnificent line:
“The night seemed suddenly defiled by the absence of music, as if the silence itself was injecting a sickness that only another song could cure.”