Elizabeth Berg, Author . Pocket $24 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7434-1134-9

Berg is the master of the soft-focus, nonconfrontational women's novel, as evidenced in her 2000 Oprah Book Club selection, Open House. In her latest work, which again features the pubescent narrator first encountered in her debut novel, Durable Goods, she describes a summer in the life of 13-year-old Katie Nash. It is 1961, and Katie's mother has been dead for two years; Katie lives with her dour military father and peppy stepmother in Missouri. Resigned to allowing her strict dad to find her summer jobs, in her free time she gorges herself on junk food with her best friend, Cynthia, and works on her tan. Katie's first-person voice is deliberative and colloquial, and the story told is rarely eventful: the highlights come when Katie first starts working for a kind, needy elderly couple, the Randolphs, and wins a radio contest offering a free plane ticket anywhere in the world. Yet where does Katie choose to fly? Back to Fort Hood, Tex., where she last lived before her mother died and where she can revisit her former best friend, Cherylanne, who is slightly older than Katie and well versed in the ways of boys, clothes and getting married fast. The trip peters out when Katie realizes she really has nothing in common with boy-crazy Cherylanne. Meanwhile, Mr. Randolph secures a scholarship for Katie at the upscale school where he once taught, but even this boon becomes a hurdle when Katie belittles Cynthia to land in the rich girls' good graces. Berg lays nostalgia traps at every turn in her 10th feel-good novel, but her readers for the most part will be happy to fall into them. 14-city author tour.(June 11)

Reviewed on: 05/20/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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