cover image A Door Near Here

A Door Near Here

Heather Quarles, Author Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers $13.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-385-32595-0

At 15, Katherine is in charge of the house and her three younger siblings--the children's alcoholic, divorced mother has been in bed for weeks and weeks, and there is no outside adult to whom they can turn for help. They have good reason to conceal their troubles--while the three oldest children might be sent to their father in another state, the youngest, eight-year-old Alisa (whose father is unknown), would almost certainly be placed in foster care. New problems (broken plumbing, dwindling food supplies, forced absences from school) crop up as quickly as old ones are solved, and, to complicate matters even more, Alisa seems to be drifting away from reality as she endlessly searches for the door that will lead her into the enchanted world of Narnia. Tension escalates when a teacher sniffs out a bit of the children's predicament and threatens to intervene. Ironically, the teacher turns out to be the one person the children can trust during their most serious crisis. While the teacher's long wait before alerting authorities is not entirely plausible, the characterizations, especially Alisa's, are otherwise compelling and complex. The contemporary setting and inventive solutions to sticky conflicts (i.e., how can the children draw money from their mother's account?) keep the material fresh, and Katherine's candid narrative voice joins with skillful pacing to mark an especially auspicious first novel. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)