How to Be a Real Person (in Just One Day)

Sally Warner, Author Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers $15.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-375-80434-2
The rather flippant tone of its title belies the depth and substance of Warner's (Sort of Forever) fine novel. Written in the credible voice of 11-year-old Kara, the narrative unfolds on several planes. The sixth-grader flashes back to the past to reveal the erosion of both her mother's mental health and her parents' marriage, records the events of her unsettling present life, escapes from her daily trials by imagining herself in the role of Karana in Island of the Blue Dolphins (the setting of which she renames ""Lonely Island"") andDas referenced in the book's titleDmakes lists of instructions for herself for staying grounded (e.g., ""How to Blend In,"" ""How to Glue Your Life Back Together""). After presenting one such list, Kara notes, ""If you do everything perfectly, you feel more real,"" which is something she desperately longs to feel. Ironically, her home situation is brutally real: since Kara's father has left to live in another town, her mother has become increasingly withdrawn and paranoid, spending most of her time shut in her bedroom while the girl takes care of herself (and her mother) and tells no one about the woman's deteriorating condition. This young narrator makes many penetrating and poignant observations (""I think my mom is very courageous. It must be scary being her""). Warner has shaped a haunting, ultimately hopeful story, whose heroine is indisputably real. Ages 10-up. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
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