Dean Stiffle knows the score. Hillside--a beautiful community in Anywhere, USA--may look like a postcard from the frontlines of the American Dream, but teenage Dean knows better. When Troy, Dean's best friend and the town's leading drug dealer, hangs himself in his bedroom his death throws the community's carefully maintained psychotherapeutic balance into disarray. At school, in an effort to get their hands on Troy's stash, Dean's classmates Billy, Crystal, and Lee plot a kidnapping scheme: they'll abduct Dean's younger brother, Charlie, and hold him for ransom for Dean retrieving Troy's pills. Only, the hapless gang kidnaps the wrong boys, snatching Charlie Bratley instead. Son of divorced parents--police officer Lou Bratley, and interior decorator--Charlie's disappearance goes unnoticed by his mother, who is too consumed with the planning of her elaborate second wedding to town mayor Michael Ebbs, to realize her son has gone missing. As the teens play out their botched kidnapping, Troy's devastated mother plans a memorial service, and Terri and Michael prepare for their wedding, we realize that the kids and adults of Hillside live entirely separately lives--like two opposing camps. All they share is an easy-fix culture that holds out the promise of panaceas they believe will make them happy--be it do-it-yourself mental healthcare, vitamin supplement shakes, an Ivy League acceptance, the perfect body, a fairy tale wedding, self-help books, or New Age mysticism. It is up to our affectless antihero Dean to shrug off his cloak of psychic invisibility and decide both whether and now to negotiate these crooked worlds.


Arie Posin