There is some really vivid and powerful writing on display in Lindsey Lee Johnson's The Most Dangerous Place on Earth. Passages unfold with layers of beautifully constructed sentences that left me in awe. The opening chapter that is the impetus for the entire story that follows—wow. Tristan Bloch's journey will stay with me for some time.
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth is an unsettling tale. It rotates through the lives of half-a-dozen over-privileged high school students (and one somewhat out-of-place teacher), each with a unique take on life. In this way, it has a sort of Breakfast Club feel to it. Set in the modern age of cyber-bullying, it carries a much darker tone than such a description implies. Although the students' individual stories gel into one cohesive novel, they could easily stand alone.
Overall, I really liked the writing and the storyline, but I did struggle a bit with some of the characters and their actions. The most glaring example occurs during one of those “only in the movies” parties where everyone's drinking, making out, dancing on tables. The problem is, everyone is at this party. Everyone. Outside of small town America, I can't imagine this happening in the real world. Not every kid in high school is going to want to go to such a party and they're certainly not going to be invited or allowed in the door. So why was Dave there? Or Cally? Or Cally's friends? There were moments like this that distracted me, but when I was able to ignore the absurdity of such moments, I was pulled right back into the story.
In some ways, it seemed Johnson was horribly out of touch with the complete high school experience. And yet, in others, she seemed to understand it better than any of us ever could. She really gets into the minds of these adolescent characters. If she fails sometimes with the social constructs, she makes up for it in her understanding of the psychology. It is for these moments that The Most Dangerous Place on Earth elicits the highest praise.