You Bet Your Life

Julie Reece Deaver, Author
Julie Reece Deaver, Author HarperCollins Publishers $15 (209p) ISBN 978-0-06-021516-3
Library Binding - 209 pages - 978-0-06-021517-0
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Nearly half a year after her mother's suicide, high school senior Bess begins a long-anticipated internship on The Les Comack Show , a Chicago-based TV program. Influenced by her mother's enthusiasm for classic American comedians, Bess has always dreamed of becoming a comedy writer; now that she is apprenticed to seasoned professionals Georgia and Nate, her goal seems much closer. In the months that follow, Bess learns plenty about show business, writes a one-liner for the show, embarks on a precarious romance and even sashays into an unexpected career as a comedienne, performing in a local club with Elliot, the TV station's elevator operator and aspiring comic. Exhilarating as these triumphs are, they are also tinged wth sadness: each achievement reminds Bess of her mother's absence. Though the plotting is sometimes a bit pat (compassionate Georgia quickly and conveniently becomes a surrogate mother for Bess), on the whole Deaver ( Say Goodnight, Gracie ) offers sound perceptions of the odd mix of sorrow, longing and moving on that characterizes mourning. Brisk wisecracks dominate the snappy first-person narration, but when Bess's grief breaks through, her voice is spine-tingling: ``When my mother died I stopped being special. It cut across me like a brutal cold wind, this feeling I had--and still have sometimes.'' Agreeable characters and a believable show-biz setting combine for a read that is speedy yet substantial. Ages 12-up. (July)
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