It's Hot and Cold in Miami

Nicole Rubel, Author
Nicole Rubel, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $17 (202p) ISBN 978-0-374-33611-0
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In this lukewarm novel set in 1964 Miami, Rubel (Ham and Pickles, reviewed above) introduces fifth-grade narrator Rachel, who wryly complains that her identical twin, Rebecca, ""stole half my brain and added it to hers"" before they were born. As a result, Rachel says, ""I'm almost invisible. It's hard getting noticed when she's so bright and I'm so dull."" It doesn't help that her parents-a calorie-obsessed, flawlessly coifed and garbed mother and a constantly traveling salesman father-relentlessly deride Rachel for eating too much and getting poor grades-unlike trim, smart Rebecca. At one point, their father dismisses a drawing made by aspiring artist Rachel (""You're not much of an artist""). And in an over-the-top incident at the swimming pool, their mother lambastes Rachel for having a potbelly, yelling, ""Just looking at you makes me depressed!"" Rachel gets some long-awaited recognition when she wins a drawing contest at school and (even though her mother flushes the candy prize down the toilet) receives gratifying validation from Rebecca, who praises Rachel's imagination and assures her that she will be a great artist someday. Rachel's honest, at times acerbic voice is appealing, and the twins' escapades take some diverting turns. But needless repetition drags down the narrative and the frequent jabs at humor often miss their mark. Ages 8-12.
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