cover image In Zanesville

In Zanesville

Jo Ann Beard, Little, Brown, $23.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-08447-5

Thirteen years after Beard's acclaimed essay collection, Boys of My Youth, she brings readers this smashing coming-of-age story. It's the 1970s and the novel's unnamed 14-year-old narrator is beginning high school after a summer spent in close company with her best friend, Felicia, as the two babysit an unruly set of six kids—the novel opens with one of the kids setting their house on fire. With freshman year comes realizations that many adolescent girls have faced, some overwhelming, some slight, but all spot-on: marching band is for dorks, boys are confusing, and even the tightest of friendships can fracture when popularity is at stake. Underlying this teenager's turmoil are problems in the grown-up world, such as her father's alcoholism, her mother's abiding unhappiness, and the death of a friend's mother—all things she tries to ignore, but which occasionally boil to the surface. Beard is a faultless chronicler of the young and hopeful; readers couldn't ask for a better guide for a trip through the wilds of adolescence. (Apr.)