AS COOL AS I AM

Pete Fromm, Author
Pete Fromm, Author . Picador $23 (272p) ISBN 978-0-312-30775-2
Reviewed on: 07/21/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
Paperback - 388 pages - 978-0-312-30776-9
Paperback - 388 pages - 978-1-250-04557-7
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4299-7414-1
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Spirited and sharply intelligent, if sometimes farfetched, this knowing coming-of-age story follows Lucy Diamond of Great Falls, Mont., for two years, from 14 to 16. They're turbulent years, but more so for Lucy because her parents, themselves married as teenagers, are both self-centered, trying to recapture the youth they feel they missed. Chuck, her father, appears only for a few days every few months; he is a charmer, and Lucy has inherited his humor and smart mouth. Though he claims to be a logger, it becomes clear that there must be other reasons for his long disappearances. Lucy's mother, Lainee, frustrated by her absent husband, has a long string of boyfriends, all of whom, like her husband, eventually disappear. Lucy, meanwhile, drifts into an affair with her best friend, scrawny, funny Kenny, whose divorced mother is an alcoholic. Then Kenny, too, is forced to move away when his mother loses custody, and Lucy recognizes she is in the same boat as her mother, her happiness contingent on the infrequent appearances of a traveling man. Lucy, clever beyond her years (what 16-year-old would think "It wasn't ten minutes before another bold five-year plan of abstinence lay in shambles"?) is such a plucky, proud, vulnerable character that the reader can't help falling for her. All the characters come alive, their stiletto tongues alternately wounding and caressing. Kenny, who truly loves Lucy, is sympathetic not just for himself, but for all the Kennys of the world who have little going for them but a kind nature and a true heart. When Lainee and Lucy finally bring their waiting days to an end, the unlikely conclusion owes more to fantasy than reality, but the emotions Fromm plumbs are painfully, poignantly real. Agent, Amy Williams. (Oct. 1)

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