cover image The Real Question

The Real Question

Adrian Fogelin, . . Peachtree, $15.95 (234pp) ISBN 978-1-56145-383-2

Fogelin (The Big Nothing ) delivers another smart tale about nerdy Tallahassee teenagers. Narrator Fisher Brown, 16, has aced school since sixth grade. Indeed, a week before the SATs, Fisher is painfully aware that his academic excellence substitutes for a relationship with Dad: "As long as I'm the A man, we're okay. In his mind we've survived Mom's desertion. Faulty logic, but it's a prime reason why I work so hard. It seems like the least I can do for him." Cracks appear in the façade, however. Fisher panics during a chemistry exam. Desiree, his unlovely, loyal friend, wants more than a platonic relationship. And Lonny, a drifter temporarily ensconced in Fisher's neighborhood, dares Fisher to challenge the status quo. With Dad off to Miami for a week to move Nana into new housing, Fisher accepts Lonny's offer of adventure: a weekend bus trip to Chiefland, Fla., to reroof his ex-girlfriend's house. The ensuing events—combination vocabulary learning curve and comedy of errors—engender a bond between Fisher and Lonny's hardworking ex and sweet young son. A few twists and Lonny's fecklessness strand the pair with no cash. Desperate after three consecutive unexcused absences, Fisher finds aid from the best kind of youth services librarian and dear Dez, who trundles down in an unreliable Crown Vic. Fisher's delightfully telegraphed epiphanies, the funny, harrowing road trip, and a satisfying showdown with Dad yield a novel that may well appeal to teens of both sexes. Ages 12-16. (Oct.)