This was a strange one, caused in part by the difference in culture between the UK and the US. I can't imagine any situation where a British family would immediately send a pregnant child to a third world country as a punishment for getting pregnant, AND expect her to give birth where health care is non-existent in some places, but in America I'm prepared to believe it. So suspend any doubts and go with it.
I really enjoyed this book because it was so unusual. The author wasn't afraid to make her main character a little aloof and impetuous. Although I felt sorry for Ida, I couldn't deeply relate to her because I'm a middle-aged English woman, not an American teen. I felt as if I were observing from the outside, rather than in her head. That being said, I was completely convinced by her character, and by that of the African characters playing their parts, especially Omo, Lev's wonderful grandmother.
Poor Ida, though. Whilst grieving for her best friend, who's untimely death casts a constant long shadow, she's basically tricked into keeping the baby after her one-night-stand promises to support her, then reneges on the deal after it's too late to terminate. She's bullied at school by girls who should know better, because of her situation. Then her parents decide the best course of action is to send her to Africa (I'm not entirely sure where, exactly) and let them deal with the problem. No wonder she's prickly a lot of the time.
Lev was hotness personified, but his attitude raised a lot of red flags for me. He was a polarising character. You'll either love him or hate him for his controlling, even manipulative, behaviour, as he leads on another woman (Baba) in order to guilt-trip Ida to doing what he wants.
Engen, Ida's closest friend, was a wounded soul, hurting from the loss of his best friend and seeing a more powerful adversary move in on the girl he loved. His awkwardness, anger and the silly games this love triangle played were incredibly convincing, as well as frustrating. I wanted to bang their heads together. This felt totally REAL. Lord, I'm glad I no longer have teenagers!
Finally, I think this is a well-written YA story, with two hot male leads and a sullen female protagonist, not dissimilar to Twilight but without the sparkly vamps and wolf shifters. There is a sizzling undercurrent of lust and jealousy rippling through the story - cleverly done as there are no overtly sexy scenes. This story ends on a cliffhanger but the next two books are already out, so if you enjoy this book, you can immediately continue the series. Be prepared to wait to see who Ida chooses in the end.
Ida and Engen's 13-year-old friendship is altered when the death of their friend comes between them. Engen, guilt-ridden over Janelle's passing, has become violent. Ida, in her grief, attempts to fill the loss with a one-night stand, which leaves her pregnant. As punishment, their parents force them to join a program called Youth of America Help a Nation, and they are sent to Africa on work assignments.
Enter Lev Rosen, Ida's irresistible boss at the orphanage where she’s been appointed. Lev has his own connection with Ida, although she doesn't know it yet. Engen hoped the time away would give him the courage to finally tell Ida his true feelings for her, but how can he do that now that she is getting closer to Lev?