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Book Review: Sykosa, Part I: Junior Year by Justin Ordoñez

In Sykosa, Part I: Junior Year by Justin Ordoñez, readers are introduced to Sykosa, a junior at a wealthy private academy, who has to deal with issues that extend beyond most typical high school experiences. Like most other teens her age, she has to make choices about sex and drugs, yet it seems at this school the issues tend to go deeper. A dark secret from an event that happened a year ago also seems to have an effect on every decision that she makes. This includes making choices that involve helping her forget what happened.

At Sykosa’s school the cliques can act pretty brutal against each other, and also within their own ranks by those vying for leadership. Sykosa has the misfortune of being on the wrong side of some of these cliques. Her best friend Niko plays a role in setting Sykosa up to be a target. This unwelcome rivalry brings her a great deal of misery. Sykosa also has deep feelings for her classmate Tom, who is also liked by a rival. Tom has a great deal of physical attraction to Sykosa and he tends to push her comfort boundaries by trying to get her to sexually go further then she is ready to. In her fantasies Sykosa is ready for sex, but in reality she has fears about taking things further. Some of these fears are tied to her bad experience. Tom knows exactly what happened to her, because he was there to rescue her. His arm bears physical scars from that night. Sykosa harbors some guilty feelings about this.

While Sykosa is trying to make her way in school, she also has to deal with unbearable pressures from her mother. Her mother is desperate for Sykosa to make every decision based upon becoming valedictorian. Sykosa manipulates her mom into giving her permission to participate in certain activities by making her believe it will help promote her to valedictorian. This is not always true. Her mother is also not fond of her close friendship with Niko. She feels that Niko has helped lead her astray. Sykosa will not allow her mom to do anything to get in the way of this friendship. Niko is quite a bit worldlier than her best friend. She has a notoriously famous mom, and seems to be following her path in regards to sex and drugs.

When Niko plans a party at her mom’s “cabin,” Sykosa is determined to go when she learns that Tom is going. She also starts thinking about losing her virginity to him. So far they have made out and engaged in heavy petting. She also hopes that he will ask her to the prom, and is frustrated that he hasn’t done so. This trip will definitely set the pace for their future together.

I found Sykosa, Part I: Junior Year by Justin Ordoñez to be a very realistic coming of age story. Unfortunately, today’s teens are being faced with a lot of pressure to engage in sexual activity, drinking and drugs. These issues are addressed in this story. So are the consequences of deciding to make these choices. Sykosa’s relationship with her mom is also very realistic. I think that older teens and young adults will really enjoy this story. Even as a middle-aged woman I found myself wrapped up in the drama, and very happy not to be young again!

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