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Dear Mr. Carson

Elizabeth Ridley, Author . Permanent $26 (195p) ISBN 978-1-57962-125-4

Love, death and fat camp push an overweight teenager to a dramatic act of independence in Ridley's uplifting but unsophisticated fourth novel (after 1993's Throwing Roses ) set in 1978. Thirteen-year-old Wilma "Sunnie" Sundstrom has familiar problems—her classmates tease her; her siblings annoy her; her bathroom scale taunts her—but her hopes for the future are less typical: she's going to write and direct an award-winning movie, Girl on the Lam , and be a guest on her beloved Johnny Carson's talk show. While Sunnie's mom insists that "fat girls have fewer choices in life," Grannie tells her she's all right just as she is, so it's no wonder that Sunnie is devastated when Grannie dies on the day she's to give her eight-grade graduation speech. Suddenly it seems like the whole family is falling apart: mom and dad might divorce; sister Ingrid mopes in the basement; little brother Max has the makings of a psychopath. Off at fat camp, Sunnie comes out of her shell to befriend some Central Casting teenagers, fall in love with a devout Christian boy and get kicked out after a classic steal-a-canoe-and-cross-the-lake-to-visit-the-boys'-camp escapade. From there, it's on to California, where Sunnie's going to meet Johnny Carson or get kidnapped trying. Inspired it's not, but this is a warmhearted coming-of-age novel. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/07/2005
Release date: 01/01/2006
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