Raynesville, Circa 2011
Even though Raynesville is in modern America, we're never told exactly what state. Dani just says that it's "hundreds of miles away" (4.10) from California. And while is a fictional place, Tess Oliver said said that when she was writing about it, she imagined the landscape of Colorado. Colorado it is, then.
Raynesville is a pretty typical small town with some amazing scenery. Jake gives us our first taste of the place:
Parking spots and businesses along Main Street stood empty as Sunday evening slid into Raynesville. The theater's orange façade looked harsher in the late day sun. The monotony of the place could choke you like one of those stupid ties you have to wear to a wedding or funeral. But no matter how hard you dragged at your collar, the place sucked the breath out of you. Around the corner, the tall, white water tower threw a shadow across the road. This morning the words save me a place in hell had been scrawled in black paint along the water tank's perimeter. The sight of it had made my morning, but the graffiti had already been covered up. Stuff like that wasn't tolerated in Raynesville. (1.5)
That sounds pretty darn suffocating. Jake might have been the King of Raynesville, but since being blamed for Amy's death, he can't wait to get out of this place. In this way, the small-town setting matters—there's no anonymity for Jake around these parts. He becomes jaded about the town and its "traditions," stuff like swimming, hanging out at the Bus, jumping off the Ledge, and playing the Game. After Amy's gone, it all seems kind of meaningless to him even though it has a really big hold on the other folks who live in town. Jake is very much over it, and this makes him the odd man out.
Dani, on the other hand, is new to town so she sees Raynesville really differently. At Grammie's old house, Dani has finally found a home. She's used to moving from place to place (and even in and out of foster homes) because of her mom's drug problems. Now that she's in Raynesville, though, she can finally settle down.
"It's kind of hard to train for the Olympics when you're moving from town to town every few months."
"You're staying here though, right?" Blister asked abruptly.
I nodded. "I think so. I hope so." An uncomfortable silence fell over the group, and I wished I hadn't said anything. These people had probably always had a home right here in Raynesville. They'd all had the life I'd always dreamed about, stable and predictable. (26.51-53)
For Dani, Raynesville represents normalcy, something she's always missed in her life. It also connects her to the people she's lost—Amy and Grammie. Living in Raynesville, even with its weird traditions and hangouts and super freaky ledges and games, is a-okay her.
By the end of the story, both Jake and Dani find out a whole lot more about the place they call home. Jake mends fences with his hometown and decides that life in Raynesville isn't quite as intolerable as he thought. Dani also starts to see the dark side of a place that seemed wholesome and sweet to her. After all, if Mr. Dermott can prey on a student while no one notices, this place can't be quite as perfect as it first seems.