The Absolute Value of -1

Steve Brezenoff, Carolrhoda Lab, $16.95 (296p) ISBN 978-0-7613-5417-8

Brezenoff (the Field Trip Mysteries) packs his first book for teenagers with emotion. Sophomores Lily, Noah, and Simon are friends living on Long Island, who are drifting apart. Lily is a math whiz, but is more focused on smoking, drinking, and pining over aloof Simon. Noah deals pot, endures an abusive relationship with his father, and begrudgingly accepts the fact that Lily barely notices him. Simon writes poetry to manage his unusually strong feelings for his sister, Suzanne, and his father's recent cancer diagnosis. When Simon quits smoking and cautiously begins hanging out with another track team member, he alienates Lily and Noah, and continues to struggle with human connections. "I couldn't handle that pity. I really wanted to take it all, absorb it into my skin, bask in it, huddle up against it and sleep, but it seemed too hard." Each of the three teenagers has a turn at first-person narration, revisiting the same scenario from different perspectives. Brezenoff nicely differentiates their voices and personalities, even while their narratives are bound together by the frustrations, self-doubt (and hatred), and pain they share. Ages 12–18. (Sept.)