Catherine Clark, Author . HarperTempest $15.99 (264p) ISBN 978-0-06-055980-9

High school sophomore Alison is withdrawing: She broke up with her senior football quarterback boyfriend, avoids hanging out with her dad and younger brother, and has removed most of the photographs from her bedroom bulletin board. Her life revolves around her mouthy best friend Laurie and the news stories she writes for the school paper. When Patrick transfers into school, they become an offbeat group (Laurie tells Alison she likes him, and while Alison develops a crush on him, too, she thinks, "I couldn't let down my defenses"). Alison's first-person narrative plants clues along the way that something tragic happened to her mother, but the fight scene between Alison and Laurie that finally divulges the details feels scripted. Readers may also have a hard time believing in the book's final tragic turn. The real strength here lies in Clark's (Truth or Dairy ) ability to create a very real world through vivid details: Alison's dad takes the kids to Salvage City warehouse, where's he's obsessed with products like Mister Fizzee "which almost never lived up to its name" and the local kids hang out drinking beer at the river's boat launch. The author also realistically presents grief as a slow and difficult process, and readers will admire Alison's ultimate realization that "rules hadn't saved me from anything." Ages 14-up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 09/06/2004
Release date: 08/01/2004
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 264 pages - 978-0-06-055982-3
Prebound-Other - 264 pages - 978-1-4177-0125-4
Library Binding - 272 pages - 978-0-06-055981-6
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-34485-2
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