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SOMEONE TO RUN WITH

David Grossman, Author, Courtney Angela Brkic, Author, Vered Almog, Translator
David Grossman, Author, Courtney Angela Brkic, Author, Vered Almog, Translator , trans. from the Hebrew by Vered Almog and Maya Gurantz. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $25 (352p) ISBN 978-0-374-26657-8
Reviewed on: 10/06/2003
Release date: 01/01/2004
Paperback - 343 pages - 978-0-312-42194-6
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Every once in a while, Grossman abandons his structurally intricate, morally complex novels of Israeli society, such as Be My Knife and See Under: Love , for lighter fare aimed at both adolescent and adult readers. But "lighter" is a relative term; like his previous adventure story The Zigzag Kid , this new novel drags its teenage protagonists through some heavy terrain. In this case, the milieu is the growing population of poor and drug-addicted runaways eking out a living on Jerusalem's streets. Assaf is an average Israeli teenage boy, shy and awkward, more comfortable with video games than with his schoolmates. His father arranges a do-nothing summer job for him with the City Sanitation Department, and he spends most of his time daydreaming about soccer until he is hitched up with a lost dog named Dinka and ordered to find its owner. Assaf learns, from the dog's retracing of its usual habits, that the owner's name is Tamar, a fellow teenager, but locating her quickly develops into something grander and more difficult—a knightly quest, on the order of a classic folk tale or hidden-door computer game, replete with guides (an elderly Greek nun, doped-up Russian immigrants), trolls (a vicious street gang), an evil king named Pesach and, of course, a princess to rescue. To Grossman's credit, Tamar is no typical lady-in-distress; she's on a quest of her own, to free her brother Shai from the clutches of the shady Pesach, a "manager" who exploits teenage street performers. To find him, she shaves her head and sings for spare change until she descends deep into the runaway world, perhaps too far to ever re-emerge. In Grossman's hands, this plot is both pleasingly familiar and made new through immersion in the details of Israeli life. Almog and Gurantz do a fine job translating the book's mix of teenage dialogue and lush description. (Jan.)

Forecast: In Israel, this novel (and The Zigzag Kid) sold to adolescent as well as adult readers and was a bestseller. The Zigzag Kid fared less well in the U.S., and Someone to Run With may also have trouble finding the right audience here, since even Grossman's fans tend to prefer his more political writings.

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