I was hesitant to read this book, because the plot sounded too much like that of my old nemesis, Perfect Chemistry: tough delinquent falls for beautiful brainy girl who makes him want to be a better man. Give me a break! So I was pleasantly surprised to see how realistically told this book really is. The writer never over-romanticizes the love story or makes the hero into an unrealistic heartthrob. He's just a smart guy who's been dealt a crummy hand but ultimately rises to his own potential, mainly because he wants to impress his hot girlfriend. The heroine is smart, sassy, and always supportive of him, but at the same time, little real-life touches are thrown in, such as the time she starts telling him about her hormones while he quietly wishes he were somewhere else.
The protagonist's transition from at-risk youth to college material is believable and told with sensitivity. The poetry he writes later in the novel is both beautiful and not written past the level of a high school senior, an impressive pairing.
The book contains many references to sex and drugs, and the language is often blue, but these components are used to create a vision of the culture of the students in the story. Still, I would say this book should stay in the hands of the 14+ crowd.
Recommend to: Anybody, especially kids who would benefit by seeing what a real but healthy teen relationship can look like.