All That Glitters

Jean Ferris, Author
Jean Ferris, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $16 (192p) ISBN 978-0-374-30204-7
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Beginning with the uninspired title, Ferris (Relative Strangers) delivers a less satisfying work than her previous books, which explore similar territory-namely, absent or emotionally distant parents. With his mother off on an extended honeymoon, 16-year-old Brian is forced to stay with his father, Leo, in the Florida Keys for a month longer than the usual excruciating two week annual visit. Remote, taciturn and slovenly in his housekeeping, Leo alienates Brian, who gets involved with a local group, led by an archeologist, in search of a sunken galleon. Brian's relationship with Tia, an intelligent but ""haughty"" black girl, also a diver, serves as a convenient framework for exploring some racial issues, but Ferris ultimately botches the opportunity. The facile handling of Tia's tearful confession of her jealousy ""for [Brian's] skin,"" i.e., for his freedom from racist preconceptions, saps the scene of the power it might have had. That the tension between them should combust in this way-with Tia becoming more docile and agreeable as a result-and that the two should agree to be ""just friends,"" are easy routes out, for Ferris, of the more difficult interracial romantic scenario. Brian and Leo's troubled relations also resolve somewhat patly, albeit against the dramatic setting of a hurricane at sea. A letdown at every turn. Ages 14-up. (Mar.)
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