Acting Normal

Julia Hoban, Author Harper Teen $14.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-023519-2
About nine months after her ""full-fledged nervous breakdown,"" 18-year-old Stephanie, once a successful commercial actress, faces her most challenging role of all: acting like a ""normal"" teen when she enrolls at a New York City public school (""It was my return to the real world after the past year of never-never land""). She begins seeing a new psychiatrist, her third, and in her sessions she dances around the crisis that triggered her breakdown; readers, only slightly more clued in, know it has something to do with a lesson in method acting, and that Stephanie is mired in feelings of guilt and shame. After Stephanie builds her first-ever close friendship with a classmate and develops trust in her psychiatrist, she eventually discloses that a nanny had abused her (the memory of which surfaced in acting class). Details about Stephanie's relationship with the nanny are fuzzy, and it remains ambiguous also how much her parents and psychiatrist know about her childhood trauma. What come across most clearly are Stephanie's initial sense of contamination and the inner strength she draws on to rescue her friend from a sexual predator. Despite her atypical background and psychiatric history, Stephanie comes off as a relatively sensible narrator readers can trust; they'll also enjoy the convincing insider view of the professional actor's milieu. But Hoban's (the Buzby books) lengthy build-up and insufficient denouement weaken the narrative tension and may cause some members of the audience to lose patience with the protagonist's introspective sorting out of past events and present hang-ups. Ages 12-up. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/04/1998
Release date: 05/01/1998
Genre: Children's
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