Without his job at the hospital, Clay would be lost. The hard work, the struggles of the patients, the drama in the ERÑit makes his days worth something, and gives focus to his dream of someday becoming a doctor. Clay can't afford to go away to college like the rest of his graduating senior class, but what other 17-year-old has delivered a baby or helped save a life?
Still, Clay wishes his life could be more like his best friend Joey's. Joey has it all—a great family, a good college waiting for him at the end of the summer, money, a car. Clay has to bike everywhere, and the miles are starting to wear him down.
But Joey's golden future shatters one day when he overdoses at a party. Now he's clinging to life at the hospital where Clay works, and Clay may even be implicated in Joey's injuries. Tension and emotion rise as those who love Joey gather and wait. Clay will do whatever he can to find out what happened at the party, and to help Joey recover. But to survive this ordeal Clay must draw on a strength he never knew he had.
Clay Gardener, respected hospital employee and loyal but conflicted friend, joins the ranks of veteran, engaging young adult characters such as Chris Crutcher's Louie Banks and S. E. Hinton's PonyBoy. This talented first-time author sets the story in small-town Georgia, the summer after high school graduation. For more than a decade, Clay has lived in the shadow of his affluent best friend, golden-boy valedictorian, med-school-bound Joey. The relationship unfolds in irresistible flashbacks and contemplations, from kiddie antics to teen angst to practices for a cross-country bike ride. Socioeconomic disparities permeate, but sex and partying surface realistically, too, without the salacious titillation of many less well-written contemporary novels. Clay's trusty bike, dreary apartment shared with his exhausted garbageman dad, and his bedpan-scrubbing job create a portrait of a teen who wants desperately to study medicine, but even community-college tuition seems well out-of-reach. Clay's voice is amazingly ordinary, with no pretense and no posing. Perhaps that is what makes him so wonderfully engaging as he attempts to solve a mystery involving Joey's hospitalization and his own possible part in the event. Acutely aware of his underdog status, Clay captures reader emotion in present and past tense, with scattered metaphors and heartfelt commitment to job and friends. Settings and characters are extremely well drawn. The compellingly serious story line is punctuated by smatters of Clay's self-deprecating humor about biking shorts, dog Champ, and Pumpkin, the police chief's cat. Harazin, a nursing assistant before becoming an RN, describes hospital work with honest detail. This reviewercannot wait for the writer's next effort.