Kim Taylor, Author . HarperCollins $15.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-029041-2

First-time author Taylor admirably evokes the dusty, gritty aura of Depression-era Colorado, but strains with her soap opera–ish story of a dysfunctional family's struggles. The novel opens as 13-year-old Cissy hides from her abusive mother, fearing a beating for something she didn't even do. Cissy's baby sister, it eventually emerges, died in infancy, and grief has rendered their mother dangerously unstable. Cissy's father has moved away, and Cissy's older brother, Jonas, keeps vowing to leave, too. Then sophisticated, beloved Aunt Vera arrives on the scene. After Vera witnesses her sister-in-law brutally attack Cissy, she whisks Cissy off to Denver, where her father lives. But her father doesn't want her, and Vera, now penniless, is hesitant to raise a child on her own. Few of the characterizations go beyond the superficial, and when potentially shocking family secrets (about Vera's sexuality and Cissy's parentage) finally emerge, they have been so heavily foreshadowed and are so easily accepted by Cissy that they make little impact on readers. Ages 10-up. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
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