Totally Confidential

Sally Warner, Author HarperCollins Publishers $15.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-028261-5
""Where do I fit in?"" Warner's (Sort of Forever) earnest heroine asks herself, adding, ""Maybe I'm like the invisible part of a machine that keeps everything else running smoothly."" Bright, articulate and entirely likable, 12-year-old Quinney manages to keep this thoughtful novel running quite smoothly and briskly. Weary of her role as peacemaker--she is constantly refereeing her spirited five-year-old twin brothers, as well as her two squabbling best friends--Quinney decides that she may as well get paid for her efforts and decides to launch a summer job as a ""Professional Listener."" The ad she places in a local advertising flyer brings a handful of responses and, though things don't go exactly as Quinney had planned, all of her customers eventually benefit from her insightful suggestions. Warner neatly weaves together strands of Quinney's life with the circumstances of her advisees, only occasionally straining credibility in terms of the girl's level-headedness and perspicacity, the depth of which goes far beyond that of an average soon-to-be sixth grader. And the ending, in which Quinney overhears her mother saying that she plans to respond to the ad for the ""listener,"" is a bit of a stretch. Those willing to look past the improbable premise will find this an otherwise tight and well-told story, full of empathy for kids' anxieties and concerns. Ages 8-12. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2000
Release date: 06/01/2000
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