Jim Lester, Author Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers $15.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-385-32168-6
Lester crams a sheaf of ambitious themes and topics into what is almost a promising debut, but he never quite hits the mark with any of them. The plot itself juggles well-worn YA story lines: the misfit at boarding school; family secrets about to tumble into the open; a tidily foreshadowed natural disaster that forces the protagonist to come to terms with himself. Kenny Francis, a self-described ""screwup,"" has been packed off for one last chance to get his act together at the Texas prep school attended by his father, who distinguished himself on the school's football field before dying a hero's death in Vietnam, never to meet his son. The legend of his father's greatness has been stoked by three war buddies who have appointed themselves Kenny's stand-in fathers and by Kenny's affectionate but irresolute mother; readers will suspect the stories about Kenny's father are false well before the climactic revelation that he died of suicide. Even though Kenny has his doubts as well, the stories fill him with a sense of inadequacy, which he partly overcomes by his courageous behavior after a tornado savages the community. Lester endows Kenny, who narrates (using lots of ""I mean""s and ""You know""s), with plenty of energy and a certain charisma, but the other characters are either too stereotypical or underdeveloped to allow for many pulse-quickening exchanges. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1996
Release date: 01/01/1996
Mass Market Paperbound - 212 pages - 978-0-440-22683-3
Prebound-Other - 212 pages - 978-0-606-11312-0
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