Just One Tear

K. L. Mahon, Author, Kate Mahon, Author, Ken Robbins, Illustrator HarperCollins $14 (1p) ISBN 978-0-688-13519-5
Mahon, a resident of New South Wales, was only 14 years old when she wrote this novel in 1992. But in the 45 brief journal entries that comprise her book, ostensibly the diary of a boy who witnesses his father's murder, the reader receives no such specific information about places or people, and is left to infer the gender of the narrator. Only the dates, from March 2 to May 2, ground the story in the calendar year. The boy records his feelings of loss, anger, emptiness and guilt surrounding the event, including his presumably ineffectual testimony in court against the murderer. The even more vital drama here, though, is domestic: the turbulent relationship between the unnamed protagonist and his grieving mother (``She's been crying all day, all night. She isn't worried about me. She doesn't care''). The prose effectively conveys the boy's depression, as in the many fragmentary ends to diary entries. It works best when it shows a dialectic between question and answer (``We went to a comedy. My friends said it was very funny. Was it? I can't remember what it was about''). The heaviness of tone is representative of a more general adolescent penchant toward alienation and morbidity, creating a sensitive and believable portrait of a critical time in one boy's life. Ages 10-up. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!