Susan R. S. K. Carlton, Author . Holt $16.95 (214p) ISBN 978-0-8050-8096-4

Teens bored with their humdrum surroundings and on the hunt for something (or someplace) better will be drawn to this debut novel. It's the week before boarding school applications are due, and 16-year-old Charlotte must decide whether to stay on the island off the coast of Maine with her dysfunctional family (she shoulders the responsibility for her preschool-age siblings) or to broaden her horizons. Charlotte's stream-of-consciousness responses to the applications' essay questions reveal her desires, frustrations and fears. For example, “Who is your favorite literary character?” leads to a rant about how Charlotte's unstable mother named her three children after Charlotte's Web ; how Charlotte's best friend, who has just hooked up with Charlotte's lifelong boyfriend, ought to have been named Templeton, the rat; a complaint about her Scrabble-obsessed dad who has “shtupped” the preschool teacher; and a comparison of herself with Charlotte the spider (“love words” and “not instantly likeable” are traits they share). Charlotte is right about not being instantly likeable: as people keep telling her, she's condescending and snarky, and she hurts her boyfriend by hiding from him her thoughts about boarding school. Although her diatribes often sound arch or overly clever, they evoke a realistic picture of a girl who yearns for independence but secretly fears letting go of the familiar. The rest of the characters seem somewhat two-dimensional, but readers might be too consumed with Charlotte's ongoing drama—that is, their own drama writ very large—to mind. Ages 14-up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 09/24/2007
Release date: 09/01/2007
Genre: Children's
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