Laura Kasischke's novel Feathered tells the story of two best friends who travel to Cancun for Spring Break. After an auspicious start, the unexpected happens, and their dream vacation turns into a nightmare which they can't simply escape by waking - which, perhaps, they cannot escape at all.
This story wonderfully captures that feeling of freedom one gets while far from home, when it's possible (easier?) to be uncharacteristically impulsive. Fueled by the toxic intensity of perfect strangers, fast friends, and foreign cultures, the girls find themselves in an extremely dangerous situation, and, in the blink of an eye, everything changes.
Every high school student who is planning a big-deal trip for Spring Break (or for any break) needs to read this book - and so do their parents, teachers, and chaperones. Lest you think Feathered a run-of-the-mill cautionary tale, it's not. Truly, this book does not promote anxiety or xenophobia, but simple, basic caution.
Feathered is told in alternating points of view, with Anne telling her story in 1st person past tense in one chapter, then Michelle's story is described 3rd person present tense the next. Each voice is very distinct. Kasischke's lyrical writing shines, especially in Michelle's chapters. This is Kasischke's second novel for young adults, following 2006's Boy Heaven. Though the plots of the two books are vastly different, both offers twists, turns, and tension from start to finish, and both get my recommendation.
Feathered is on my list of Best Books of 2008.