Lori Aurelia Williams, Author . S&S $17 (304p) ISBN 978-0-689-82469-2

Williams picks up where she left off in her stunning debut novel (When Kambia Elaine Flew in From Neptune), chronicling the complicated summer of 13-year-old Shayla. The smart, sensitive narrator is still trying to help Kambia recover from years of abuse but, as the story opens, Shayla's mostly absent father and his wife give birth to a new baby girl—on Shayla's birthday. When she befriends Lemm, a new classmate with an alcohol problem, the heroine must grapple with even more complicated feelings and again decide, as she did with Kambia, what it means to be a true friend. There are more subplots than in the previous novel (e.g., Kambia begins receiving mysterious packages containing painful fragments from her past; Lemm's family history grows complicated) and more characters to keep track of here (a cameo appearance by Shayla's ex-girlfriends and their new beaux), and so much tragedy that the story almost becomes surreal. Some readers may have difficulty keeping up (especially those who did not read the first book), but Shayla's strong sense of self and the poetic language she uses to pinpoint her feelings will keep readers enraptured. The chapters sometimes begin with the pieces written by Shayla, an aspiring writer; through them, and through the similes she pens in her journal ("Regret is flowing through me like dirty bathwater"), readers see her working through her problems. While the courtroom drama involving Lemm at the conclusion feels a little trite, Williams does not present easy answers. Readers will feel the undercurrent of authenticity in her characters and situations throughout the novel. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/13/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-8072-0580-8
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-8072-0581-5
Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-4391-1654-8
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-689-85670-9
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