V. M. Caldwell, Author . Milkweed Editions $16.95 (196p) ISBN 978-1-57131-662-2

YA novelist Caldwell (The Ocean Within ) makes her adult debut with 12-year-old protagonist Robert Remick (nicknamed Runt by his long-dead father), an orphan trying to negotiate poverty and neglect. Upon his mother's death, Runt's family breaks up: three sisters are taken in by various aunts (two younger sisters are dead), and Runt goes to live in a trailer with his 19-year-old sister, Helen, and her boyfriend, Cole, a cartoonish, tyrannical figure. Some of the story centers on Runt's piecing together of what it is Cole actually does, and some on neighbor Mitch, a wheelchair-bound prankster who's fighting cancer. Mitch breaks through Runt's reticence, helping him cope with his past while inspiring him to reach out to others, through the Web and otherwise. Aside from Cole, the characterizations are strong, with Runt's inarticulate numbness early in the book coming through most clearly, but the book's emotional bandwidth doesn't stray far from YA territory. (May)

Reviewed on: 03/27/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
Prebound-Sewn - 208 pages - 978-1-4177-5077-1
Paperback - 196 pages - 978-1-57131-661-5
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