“Good and Gone” by Maine author Megan Frazer Blakemore is one of those books that, right off the bat, ticks off a lot of great boxes. It’s a road-trip story, which is a classic modern American narrative. It’s also a family drama, in which a pair of siblings reckon with their differences, accompanied by a good-natured gay boy-next-door type. It’s a young-adult novel, which makes it incredibly zippy to get through. On top of all that, it also manages, refreshingly, to avoid being a love story. In other words, this is a fantastic read.

The novel opens with narrator Lexi Green, a moody 15-year-old, judging her brother harshly for enjoying a sitcom of the “Married with Children” variety, “where the wife thinks her husband is stupid and he thinks she is neurotic.” This is a pattern that remains throughout the book – Lexi reads as a bit judgmental, though often right, and rough around the edges, and in this way feels and behaves very believably like a teenager. Blakemore here too avoids one of the pitfalls of the genre: Many YA novels, even some of the best, star kids whose issues are all internalized or made quiet, kids whose edges show in their narration but are never inflicted on their friends or loved ones. Lexi isn’t like that: She’s sharp, and changing, and figuring herself out. She’s hurt, that much is clear right from the start, and she’s dealing with that hurt because she has to. Her brother, Charlie, who started college in the fall, didn’t go back there after winter break, and has taken up semi-permanent residence on the family couch for the last couple months.

It’s from this resting state – Charlie prone on the couch, Lexi perpetually angry, a sexist sitcom rerunning on TV – that the novel jumps up, going from zero to 60 in several short pages. The sitcom is interrupted by a broadcast announcing the disappearance of a rock star, Adrian Wildes, and Charlie is at once raring to go, recruiting Zack, the boy-next-door with the car, for a road trip. Lexi decides to come along to keep watch on her brother. These opening pages strain credulity: Are TV broadcasts interrupted for rock stars gone missing? Would a trio of teens really take some granola bars and candy and leave a note for their parents saying they’ve gone looking for a musician with whom they have zero personal connection? It’s a little frustrating, and feels far too easy, but Blakemore manages to get us through this part quickly so that her characters are on the road.

The meat of the novel involves this search for Adrian Wildes, whom you know they’re going to manage to find against all odds, because this is that kind of book, which means it’s the journey that’s the fun part. Blakemore uses the literal forward propulsion of the road trip to great effect, allowing Lexi to look back at what – and who – she’s angry at: Seth. Seth is the boy many of us knew once, or still know, the boy who wears feminist T-shirts and criticizes women at the same time, the boy who thinks that it’s his job to tell girls and women to be natural, the boy who believes feminism is performing a particular kind of opinion, when really it’s listening to and giving space to women. He’s the boy who thinks makeup is wrong:

“It’s utterly ridiculous,” Seth tells Lexi, “It’s false. It’s a false promise. You offer up one thing, but underneath, it’s something totally different.” Lexi thinks, but doesn’t say, “Maybe she is not offering anything up in the first place.”

Seth is the boy, in other words, who sucks you in and spits you out, while somehow convincing everyone, and especially himself, that it’s not his fault. Seth is dangerous, and Lexi communicates this slowly, through flashback scenes triggered by what she and Charlie and Zack are up to on their road trip.

This isn’t, however, a simple healing story, nor is the narrative one in which a broken girl knits herself back together. It’s a novel that addresses what it means to feel broken, and to keep feeling broken, and to not know quite when it’ll end. Lexi and Charlie are both in a terrible place here, siblings whose relationship feels real and unique, and while they don’t end up exactly at peace, they’re both more aware of one another by the end of the book. Lexi’s journey isn’t perfect, and she isn’t always the most sympathetic character, but she’s real, and she’s recognizable, and you can’t help but root for her.

Ilana Masad is a book critic and fiction writer starting her Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, StoryQuarterly, Broadly, the Washington Post, the LA Times and more.