Blake Nelson, Author . Viking $16.99 (227p) ISBN 978-0-670-03644-8

Anything but maudlin, and the polar opposite of Dawson's Creek–ish sentimentality, Nelson's (Girl: A Novel) latest is an especially mature and incisive look inside the heart of a teenage boy who believes that he might already have seen the best that life and love have to offer. Narrator Max Caldwell makes excellent grades and achieves everything he tries. His college prospects look great; he's even got the perfect girlfriend, Cindy. But something is not right—with the two of them, with himself. The story begins as Max finds himself breaking up with her, before fully realizing that he even wants to ("Even though she was the perfect girl. Even though we were the perfect couple.... I couldn't remember why we were together"). Thus begins an intense journey of self-discovery, told in an achingly honest narrative. His sensitivity to others' feelings, including Cindy's, and his nonjudgmental observations will win over readers. Over the course of his senior year, he grows close to a fellow school newspaper staffer, an environmental activist who conceals her beauty in order to be taken seriously, and he runs from an enthusiastic sophomore who rigs a game of spin-the-bottle to end up with him. Ultimately, though, this is not a book about events or people; it is simply about one person, and how he learns what kind of man he is becoming. Pared down and stripped of any unnecessary trappings or baggage, it is a stark, elegantly expressed journey. Ages 12-up. (June)

Reviewed on: 06/23/2003
Release date: 06/01/2003
Prebound-Other - 224 pages - 978-0-606-32727-5
Mass Market Paperbound - 224 pages - 978-0-14-240242-9
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