Testing Kate

Whitney Gaskell, Author
Whitney Gaskell, Author . Bantam $12 (321p) ISBN 978-0-553-38314-0
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Kate Bennett, 29, is ready to chuck her staid life in Ithaca for law school at pre-Katrina Tulane, but a moving van mishap leaves her unprepared for the first day of the notorious professor Hoffman's criminal law class. His cringe-inducing close questioning leaves Kate a laughingstock, but not in the eyes of her quickly convened study group: the dramatic, blonde goddess Lexi; the married and affable Jen; goofy Addison; 19-year-old phenom Dana; and sexy Nick, who lives in her building. The situation with Hoffman escalates; ex-boyfriend Graham shows up to woo her back. After a brief respite, Hoffman unexpectedly takes over one of Kate's classes second semester, and things get progressively more complicated: Kate spends an intimate night with Nick, has to pick up the pieces when Dana starts to crack, and uncovers a dramatic secret about Jen—all of which forces Kate to examine her commitments in love and law. Gaskell (She, Myself & I ) relieves the high school–like atmosphere with sharp dialogue and various forays into New Orleans culture. But the cast is largely schematic (even in crisis), and Kate's own dilemmas (law review, anyone?) are not compelling enough to raise the stakes. (Oct. 31)

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