Dial Books/Penguin Putnam: NY, 2001.
The mystery begins less than a year after Frances' brother's funeral. Officially, it is a suicide. Frances finds that hard to believe. She accepts it up until the time that the charity organization he participated in, Unity Service (a multi-campus, private high school scholarship and food pantry) proposes a memorial scholarship using his name. Frances wants to be involved with the group for her brother's sake but is rejected by a lead organizer (her brother's girlfriend). However, the executive of the organization requests that she personally sign the fundraiser's invitation letter - something she is unwilling to do, because it defames her brother.
Frances has no friends, since she has spent all of her puberty hiding from people. As an artist, hiding is easy. Now, she desperately needs someone to talk to about her questions and concerns. Three people step into that void: her art teacher, the local student drug pusher, and the campus gardener who has slight mental disabilities. The gardener is a reliable friend and knows more than what he is given credit for. Frances believes she has a bond with the art teacher but is thrown when the teacher advises her to be the liaison for the charity. The drug pusher is a drug pusher, so how much can he be trusted?
I've been seeing this book at the library, and when it showed up on a mystery search list, I decided to read it. The first half of the book deals with Frances and her family, her inferiority complex, campus life, and her brother's death. Half of the book is gone before there is a glimpse of the mystery. I found the book provocative anyway, and then the mystery adds another level to it. I did guess one of the character twists but not the other two. So, the ending was a surprise. The storyline and setting (the charity) are different and bring a fresh twist to the mystery.
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