Karen Romano Young, Author . HarperCollins/ Greenwillow $16.95 (208p) ISBN 0-688-17363-2

Set in the '60s (like her humorous and original The Beetle and Me: A Love Story), Young's third novel may disappoint fans of that debut title. Despite some well-crafted moments, this tale of Chérie, who turns 13 in the course of the book, moves at a sluggish pace. The novel seems arbitrarily divided into four parts that take place in Connecticut in April, July, October and December of 1968. Several big events occur, and as a news carrier, Chérie learns of them first: riots in the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the escalation of the Vietnam war and the disappearance of a girl her age in a neighboring town. But readers unfamiliar with historic events may not recognize their effect on the protagonist, and a prolonged preoccupation with the teen who disappeared mounts and ebbs sporadically. Similarly, her platonic relationship with neighbor and classmate Dave Asconti builds to the brink of romance then erupts occasionally in near violence, and although such erratic behavior seems concomitant with adolescence, it's often difficult to detect where Chérie stands on the relationship, even though she is narrating. Subplots involving her friendship with Joanie and the building of an elf house peter out. The most moving moments are anchored in details: Chérie teaching her younger sister to ride a bike; an awkward moment when Dave, whose family is moving, comes to say goodbye. These are the scenes that offer readers a sense of who Chérie really is. Ages 10-up. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/13/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
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