Break to You

This captivating and tense portrayal of life in a juvenile detention center follows two teens who dare to defy boundaries for love.

Adriana Zarahn has been assigned to Compass Juvenile Detention Center after numerous "stupid decisions." To cope, she pours her heart into a journal that she misplaces. When she finds it, it is shelved in the library and fully annotated by Jon Kilgore, a teen from the sex-segregated facility's boys' side. "You're fierce," he comments. "Fierce, huh?" she writes back, and asks him to share about himself. "Give me something real." So begins a forbidden, magnetic love story.

National Book Award winner Neal Shusterman (Challenger Deep; Game Changer), author Debra Young (who died in 2024, before this book's publication), and former space shuttle engineer Michelle Knowlden weave a remarkably seamless third-person narrative that switches between Adriana's and Jon's vividly voiced perspectives. Jon, who wields a brutal reputation upheld by rumors and a "scary history," focuses on avoiding transfer to an adult male prison; meanwhile, Adriana builds rapport with the girls' established pack through fists and favors. The romance here is gravitational ("The truth of you. It feels like the stuff of stars," Jon tells Adriana). Even the teens' potential eye contact stops the heart, and every illicit letter exchanged intensifies both their love and what they're willing to risk for it. Buoying it all is phenomenal prose ("Emotions spin into a tornado so full of flying shrapnel, he can't function") and strong humor (" 'I'll owe a solid'... 'You'll owe me liquid and gas too' "). Break to You is electrifying. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

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