New to town, Beatrice is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. But instead, the alphabet conspires to seat her next to Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a quiet loner who hasn't made a new friend since third grade. Something about him, though, gets to Bea, and soon they form an unexpected friendship. It's not romance, exactly - but it's definitely love. Still, Bea can't quite dispel Jonah's gloom and doom - and as she finds out his family history, she understands why. Can Bea help Jonah? Or is he destined to vanish?
By the time she's a senior, Beatrice Szabo is an expert at emotional detachment, having trained herself not to consider “the houses we lived in as my house, or the street we lived on as our street.” Her biology professor father, constantly following grant money to new positions, has now brought the family to Baltimore. Bea's former best friend—her mother—is coming unhinged, miserable about moving and her deteriorating marriage. So it comes as a surprise to Bea that at her new, small private school she forms a near-instant bond with Jonah Tate, a boy with a past so tragic his withdrawal was probably inevitable. Bea and Jonah's relationship is platonic but intense—two kids drawn to each other by joint recognition of the intelligence behind the robotic facades they wear to get through high school. Bea's darkly comic sensibility carries the story, and Standiford's minor characters—including the over-50 callers on an all-night radio show Bea and Jonah listen to faithfully—provide more humor. There's no happy ending, but that, too, will give this first novel resonance with anybody on the fringe. Ages 13–up. (Oct.)