In what by now must be a subgenre in YA fiction-the novel cast as a journal written for an English assignment-Newbery Medalist Creech (Walk Two Moons) spins an affable if formulaic tale about one pivotal summer. Narrator Mary Lou, 13, the second of the five Finney children, is quite put out when she has to play maid for her uncommunicative cousin Carl Ray, 17, who comes to stay while he looks for a job. He gets one, to Mary Lou's surprise, at the hardware store owned by their new neighbor Mr. Furtz, who shortly afterward dies of a heart attack. Not only does Carl Ray remain in his new job, but an anonymous benefactor leaves him money-just like in Great Expectations, as Mary Lou points out. There the resemblance to Dickens ends: the astute reader will early on figure out the mystery behind Carl Ray's inheritance. Mary Lou is also slow to pick up clues about why her cute classmate Alex is always hanging around. Despite the occasionally creaky plot, Mary Lou's bouncy entries are still a lot of fun. Readers will enjoy her wry commentary on The Odyssey (on the school reading list), and girls especially will identify with Mary Lou's disgust at the giddy behavior of boy-crazy best friend Beth Ann and her own giggly rhapsodies on her first romance (``I am sooooo happeeeeee I can hardly stand it!''). Ages 10-14. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/1995 Release date: 10/01/1995 Genre: Children's
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