Music, flowers and romantic novels, especially Wuthering Heights, are recurring motifs in this novel, and it presents a different picture of California and American high schools to what I'm used to seeing in books and film. Instead of the usual cheerleaders, cliques, locker-lined halls, cafeterias and the occasional biology lab, for Lennie the heart of school is the band, and somehow this felt more like high school as I knew it. We didn't have cheerleaders or lockers in the corridors (too narrow!) and the school canteen was best avoided. We did have music though, a jazz band (and was there an orchestra? Must have been!) a choir and various dramatic productions going on.
As well as the music, Lennie writes poetry, scribbles it down on any surface handy - at one point the narrative describes her attempting to write a poem on the sole of her shoe. She jots down her thoughts, memories of Bailey and remembered conversations, putting her thoughts onto paper (or shoe, or bathroom wall...) to try to straighten them out and make sense of the world. This is something I do myself - I carry a notebook in my handbag at all times, even post-its and a mini Sharpie if I don't have room for anything else - so it made me warm to Lennie further. Unlike me, though, Lennie lets her writing go, hides it all around the town, and between the chapters are included photographs of her poetry and a note where each piece was found.
Lennie's two romantic interests are Toby, Bailey's bereaved boyfriend, who gravitate towards each other to try to fill the Bailey-less hole, and Joe, new boy in the school band, who gets to see Lennie without the spectre of Bailey hanging over her. This was a love triangle that didn't feel forced, didn't seem to be put in to liven up a dull romance, or just because Love Triangles Are The In Thing. Although it was clear that Lennie was in too deep and heading for trouble, you could understand what got her tangled up in the situation she found herself in. An accessibly arty novel, with vibrant characters and rich, poetic language.