cover image The Warping of Al

The Warping of Al

Jessie Close. HarperCollins Publishers, $15.95 (282pp) ISBN 978-0-06-021280-3

Having grown up in a house filled with women, Al Cokel has always felt closer to his mother, three sisters and story-telling grandmother than to his frequently absent father, who expects his son to join the family business instead of becoming a chef, as Al desires. Al's 12th summer is nearly ruined when he is forced to accompany his father to South America to learn about the metals trade. On his return, the boy decides to declare his independence; the next chapter takes place five years later, when he finally leaves home and takes a job in a supermarket. Although Al cannot completely divorce himself from either his past or his family, he refuses to visit his father, until a tragedy reunites the entire family. However interesting and diverse, the characters of this first novel are never fully developed. Many details about Al's experiences seem somewhat tangential and overdrawn, and his growth, realizations and dreams are only superficially sketched. The book does contain some meaningful scenes involving the dynamics of family relationships, yet the lack of focus and awkward plotting weaken its overall effect. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)