In the tradition of Ellen Hopkins and Patricia McCormick, Kimberly Marcus uses free verse to tell the realistic story of one teen’s plight in her debut novel, Exposed. High school senior Liz Grayson, aka Photogirl, lives to find the perfect photographic mood and shot, while her “forever-best friend” Kate has spent most of her life dancing. At their monthly sleepover, Liz berates Kate for her “whipped” boyfriend and for wanting to give up dance, and after the two argue, Liz storms off to sleep in her own bed, leaving Kate alone on the couch.
In the days and weeks that follow, Kate is unusually reluctant to make up with Liz. Thinking Kate’s ongoing avoidance is due to their fight, Liz is shocked when her friend accuses her college-age brother Mike (on whom Kate has had a longtime crush) of raping her the night of the sleepover. Mike denies the accusation, even after being arrested. In Marcus’ searing poems, Liz agonizes over her own culpability about the situation (would anything have happened if she hadn’t fought with Kate?) and who to side with (“So which one’s telling lies?”). Her first-person narration also reveals her anguish as she endures endless school gossip (“Good-bye, Photogirl. / Hello, / Sister of a Rapist.”) and loses her best friend, the brother she thought was easygoing and even her love for photography.
Yet her photography serves as a fitting metaphor for the chaos surrounding her as she comes to realize that an entire story lies beneath a single snapshot and that the story, unlike her black-and-white pictures, is filled with shades of gray. Called to be a witness at her brother’s trial, she doesn’t know how to fit her years of memories into yes-or-no responses. If she can ever return to photography, she knows that she’ll have trust her own point of view. Liz’s hard-hitting, multifaceted dilemmas will undoubtedly provoke reactions from readers, who will wonder if justice has been served in the end.