The other protagonist, Rachel, has relatively recently (some months back) cut ties with her father (only remaining immediate family) and the religious community in which she was raised and home schooled. The first major problem I had with the book was the idea of an extremely Christian religious community being named Elysian Fields. I sort of didn't believe it, but I'm willing to listen to justification/rationalization/explanatio
The second major problem I had with the book was how Rachel got out. She was homeschooled, and access to the internet was apparently available to a limited degree in the community but it was supposedly highly controlled. It's unclear to me how she put together any kind of escape plan and hers was clearly _really effective_ the first time, as she connected with social workers, a shelter, and they helped her (this is in the backstory, and communicated with admirable concision) get documentation in order to survive in the world outside. I also sort of didn't buy the idea that you could be as stable as Rachel appeared to be, with as little communication/close friendships as she had/has at the time the story takes place. On the one hand, she's super with the non-verbals, and that counts for a lot. But still.
I utterly believed the idea that Rachel would immediately identify Ben as a good person to unload her virginity with. He had I-will-avoid-all-commitment written all over him, and that's what she was looking for. And, not unexpectedly, that desire on her part, paired with her stunning ability to generate meaningful human connection from remarkably little verbal communication, caused him to want to come back for more. Rachel's developing sexuality is handled in a nuanced and creative way (I would expect no less of this author), as is Ben's slow-motion but nevertheless total psychological collapse.
If you're prepared to believe the premise (hey, I read books about werewolves and vampires and Fae and wtf; believing someone is preternaturally emotionally self-contained AND stable shouldn't bug me that much, amirite?), then this is a fantastic book, perhaps Calhoun's best.
Alas, while I wasn't home schooled, and I didn't have the degree of agrarian isolation that Rachel had, I grew up in a very socially isolated way, and I similarly plotted my escape. I'm not necessarily as stable or self-contained as Rachel (the self-contained part I find particularly unbelievable -- humans don't really work that way), but even if I were, the difficulties presented by the transition she experienced are more destabilizing than they were presented. So park me in the I Can't Accept That Premise column, along with many other readers.
This in no way prevents me from loving Calhoun's work, and being fully prepared to come back for more.