The Most Dangerous Place On Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson is an uncomfortably realistic novel about a group of teenagers living in Mill Valley, California.
The teenagers all have starkly different personalities, but they do have two things in common:
1. They’re raised in families that, on the outside, appear to have everything one could ever want in life.
2. They all have a deep desire to escape.
The teens move from middle school to high school immersed in expensive iPhones, social media, and the resources to party as hard as they want to outside school hours. Their parents are workaholics and alcoholics with only a false interest in their children.
“Who will stand you up in this world if you will not do it yourself?”
– The Most Dangerous Place On Earth
At the root of this novel, it’s heart-wrenching. We live in a society with such a heavy emphasis on wealth, and here these teenagers are suffering for it without even realizing.
They’re all desperate to feel something real in life, to make actual connections with other people, but they’re not finding that fulfillment from each other or from their parents.
Instead, they turn to vices they’re not even old enough to comprehend the consequences of.
Warning: slight spoiler ahead.
The desperation is only made worse when a classmate commits suicide during their eighth grade year, the group’s cyberbullying of him to to blame.
Although the actions of a group of naive 13-year-olds is, instinctively, something most adults think should be punished, the shock and outrage dissipate as quickly and quietly as it arises.
The adults in Mill Valley have barely addressed their own psychological problems, so how can they possibly deal with a student’s suicide?
The story also gives us a glimpse of Molly Nicoll who, at just 23 years old, is more naive than the teenagers themselves. She’s eager to connect with her kids, be their confidante beyond the classroom.
However, she quickly discovers that the administration in this school district has no interest in going above and beyond their teaching duties, especially for spoiled rich kids.
Molly’s story is sad commentary on the way some teachers really view the student bodies they’re put in charge of.
The novel took some time to capture my attention, but once it did, it was thought-provoking.
There are some moments when the connections between characters are difficult to discern, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing–in fact, it might prompt you to re-read it a few times.
The Most Dangerous Place On Earth will be available at online and physical retailers on January 10, 2017. It’s available for preorder now.