Deborah Savage, Author . Houghton $16 (304p) ISBN 978-0-618-04756-7

Savage's (Summer Hawk) ambitious coming-of-age novel combines historical facts with contemporary mystery, supernatural occurrences, romance and tragedy. The result, unfortunately, is a rather disjointed saga revolving around 17-year-old Wim Thorpe's heritage. Professor David Te Makara, a stranger from New Zealand, provides the key in unlocking ancient secrets about Wim's ancestors. The academic arrives at the Thorpes' door in Provincetown, Mass., with his niece and ends up lodging in their family cottage to do "research." The professor slowly uncovers evidence that he and Wim are distantly related. Meanwhile, plenty of other distractions further unsettle the heroine's muddled emotions: her memory of a friend who died of anorexia; Kia, Wim's visionary great-aunt; a rare white heron, or kotuku, Wim spots intermittently; a wild horse she is trying to tame; and "the man with the tattooed face," a ghostly figure, who periodically haunts both Wim and Aunt Kia—and who bears a striking resemblance to the professor. While the book offers insight into the exploitation of native New Zealanders, its clutter of subplots disrupts the flow of the story, and the romance may stretch readers' credibility. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
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