A House Like a Lotus by Madeleine L'Engle
The book opens as 16-year-old Polly O'Keefe is adjusting to her recent arrival in Greece for a few days of sight-seeing before traveling to a writing conference in Cypress. She has learned that her aunt and uncle will be delayed for several days in meeting her and that she will need to manage on her own until they arrive. Her trip proves to be quite an adventure--she meets up with a young man, Zachary Gray, who proves to be a less-than-desirable influence and endangers her life during her stay in Cypress. However, Zachary is also perceptive enough to realize that Polly is hiding a wound.
If he had heard her say the name, "Max," Zachary probably would have launched into some monologue about how he would pay the expletive-for-male back for hurting "Pretty Pol." But Max is not a male at all. Max is an elderly female, and the hurt she inflicted upon Polly was uncharacteristic and one neither of them will ever forget. Polly, however, is young and must learn to forgive the heroine who has fallen. Cypress will help. In a strange way, Zachary's carelessness will help.
I first read this book when I was a young college student. In the interest of reviewing it fairly, I should mention that I was a child very similar to the main character: very naive and unfamiliar with certain teenage customs and norms. I was a loner, a deep thinker, not at all interested in listening to gossip... I probably would have gotten along fabulously with Polly O'Keefe. These things, however, affected some of my ability to understand certain portions of the book. Rereading it from my current vantage point as a person in my 30s with a lot more life experience behind me has enabled me to appreciate it much more. There is nothing in the book that is "dirty," especially compared to what kids talk about of their own free will on a regular basis. A mature high schooler may very well face similar problems, particularly because it is not altogether uncommon for a teen to come under the nurturing presence of an adult who is somewhat elderly and whose health is failing. I would encourage any teen reading this book to have in mind some adultwith whom sensitive issues could be discussed if desired. The book does bring up quite a few "heavy" themes: idolization, death, sexuality (including homosexuality), rumors, healthy expressions of friendship, when and how much to keep from one's parents regarding upsetting personal experiences... For adults, many of these questions are not necessarily moot points; they're just examined a bit differently. Like many works of fiction, it can stimulate some very useful thought. It's well worth the read.