Thank You to Random House Publishing Group for providing me with an advanced copy of Lindsey Lee Johnson's novel, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT- In the privileged and idyllic Northern California town of Mill Valley, the kids seem to have it all. However, look beneath the surface, and their lives are ruled by insecurities, bullying, and vicious gossip, all magnified by social media.
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth, begins with an incident that rocks an eighth grade class; a boy sends a note to a girl professing his love and the note falls into the wrong hands, driving the boy to commit suicide. The impact of the suicide is primarily felt by Calista, the girl to whom the love letter was written. As the students transition to high school, they don't understand the impact of gossip, until they are on the receiving end. How much risky behavior can they get away with before facing the consequences? How much will the consequences alter their lives?
LIKE- The Most Dangerous Place on Earth is a page-turner. I absolutely couldn't put it down and although it isn't necessarily a short book ( nearly three hundred pages), I tore through it in a single day. I just had to keep reading. Johnson's compelling cast of characters and thrilling plot kept me up late.
The book title is not an overstatement, Mill Valley is a place filled with danger. It's not a conventionally dangerous place, no murders; the danger is in the behavior of the people and the general callousness that they show towards others. Mill Valley could be a stand in for many parts of America, or even wealthy suburbs in other countries. This is a community where the parents are wrapped up in their own lives, giving their teenagers ample freedom. As long as the kids keep up a facade of perfection ( good grades, on track toward a prestigious college), no one notices the negative behavior, like crashing expensive cars, running up credit card tabs, and social media obsessions. The danger level keeps ramping up in scary and shocking ways.
It was so shocking that I had to stop reading and share portions with my husband. I've been thinking about the shock value over the last few days. and I think the reason that it packed such a punch, is that nothing is this story seems outlandish. These kids are very much real, so much so, that if I had been told this was a memoir, I would have believed it. The things that happen in this story, you don't want to imagine are happening in high schools, but I'm certain they are and it's upsetting. Johnson writes with emotion that is raw and real. The Most Dangerous Place on Earth points to major flaws that our society is currently facing with regard to our obsession with social media, and the way that we isolate ourselves from truly engaging with others. It's stomach turning and makes this novel very current.
DISLIKE- Nothing. The Most Dangerous Place on Earth is brilliant.
RECOMMEND- Yes. The Most Dangerous Place on Earth is a must-read and I'm certain that it will be on the 2017 best sellers list. This would be a great book club pick, as it begs to be discussed. Johnson is a fantastic writer and I look forward to her next novel.