Home Before Dark by Susan Wiggs

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In the book Home Before Dark by Susan Wiggs, Lila is a fifteen-year-old girl whose overwhelming desire to be popular is affecting all of her decisions. Lila’s mom Luz describes her current behavior as “some sort of identity crisis”. Specifically Luz states, “She’s been getting in trouble at school, acting out, that sort of thing. You saw how she acted toward me. My sweet little fairy child has turned into a demon, skipping school, sneaking out at night, climbing the water tower, rappelling off the train bridge, skinny-dipping in Eagle Lake. I keep telling myself it’s a normal teenage rebellion, she’ll get over it and we’ll all survive, but it keeps getting worse. Her grades are going south, I don’t even know her friends anymore.” Lila would not dispute her mother’s description of her, but would justify her behavior as necessary in order to hang with the most popular kids. Lila is a sophomore in high school who is dating the senior quarter back of the varsity football team. She hangs out with all of his upperclassmen friends and feels pressured to smoke pot and drink alcohol. Lila acts out of her personality and begins to sneak out at night to see her boyfriend Heath. One night, Lila and Heath along with other upperclassmen break curfew partying in Heaths car. Lila feels compelled to fit in with her friends and suggests that they go “hill hopping”, the coolest new thing to do. Hill hopping is where you drive as fast as you can off road mountain terrain attempting to get as much air as possible before landing. Unfortunately this night the fun and games turns tragic as the car and its passengers end up in a horrific crash. Remarkably Lila is unscathed but one of her friends dies in the accident, and her boyfriend crushes his leg ending his football career. After the accident, Lila and Heath break up and her friends ditch her. Lila is blamed for causing the accident even though she was not driving because being the younger classmen she is the easy target. Isolated from her friends and grounded at home, Lila chooses to spend a considerable amount of time alone. Her visiting aunt fills a much needed role in reaching out to Lila and getting her to realize that it is not necessary to conform to peer pressure in order to have friends, but rather to find friends where you can be yourself.

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