After Julian's loving parents died he was taken into a foster home with Adam and his mother for a few moths. The two boys became close until a distant uncle showed up and took custody of Julian. Now that Julian is a freshman in high school he finds that Adam has been tasked with making sure Julian makes it to his appointments with the school counselor. Julian is withdrawn, awkward, misses school quite often, and wears clothes that are too small. Adam is popular and self-assured and soon pulls Julian into his group of friends. The more he gets reacquainted with Julian, the more Adam can tell there is something weird happening with uncle Russell. Even though he remembers his how his parents cared for him, Julian has accepted the punishments he gets from Russell but as he spends more time with Adam and his new friends, he begins to see that things might be bad there.
This is an intense story about a victim of abuse and Julian's reaction to what is happening rings true to me. I've been a school librarian for 24 years and have seen thousands of kids. The ones from really crappy homes are always protective of their parents and internalize the problems, blaming themselves. It is a compelling read and I know it will be flying off my shelves but I would have some qualms about putting it on a recommended list for younger teens. The abuse scenes grow as the book goes along and the abuse is disturbing (more than "just" getting hit with the switch at the beginning) and protracted. It will definitely be an issue for sensitive readers although it is comforting to know that Julian has a hero in Adam. The ending scene at the party felt more like thriller/suspense work which didn't seem to fit with the rest of the story.