Little Brown, 2007
I read this all in one sitting, couldn't put it down. There are three parts, three settings. Alaska, Indiana, and the coast of Texas. When Kip was nine and hardly realizing what he was doing he set a seven-year-old on fire. From catatonic state to four years in a mental institution, Kip tries to learn to live again. The first third of the book tells of his life in the hospital in Alaska.
When his doctors deems him well enough to join the real world, his dad and stepmom move to Indiana and change their names, there have been hate crimes and death threats because he "walked away" from the crime. From inside Kip - now Wade's - head, we suffer with him as he tries to construct a life after over four years in almost-isolation. He's smart, friendly, athletic. He makes friends, studies, joins the swim team. But his guilt is his constant companion. He starts drinking, and one night tells his friends about his past. He is ostrasized, and they have to leave again.
They end up in a house on a beach in Texas, where Wade falls for the girl next door- who has her own demons. But he feels he must tell her about his past. So he writes the whole story into journals, which he gives her to read. That's what we've been reading.
Intriguing story. Tough topic. Masterful storytelling.