cover image Whitechurch


Chris Lynch. HarperCollins Children's Books, $14.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028330-8

With this unsettling, coolly polished novel, Lynch (Gypsy Davey; the Blue-Eyed Sons series) demonstrates once again his profound understanding of society's casualties, misfits and losers. Whitechurch, where 16-year-old narrator Oakley resides alone (except when his alcoholic father shows up), is a dilapidated old New England town with no industry save for a newly built state prison; the prison serves also as a metaphor for the characters' inability to escape their problems. Passive and ambitionless, Oakley allows himself to drift in the wake of his sociopathic best friend, Pauly, who has a girlfriend in ""good girl"" Lilly. Oakley is tacitly understood to be in love with her, too, and the three form a triangle that nothing, Pauly insists, will change. But Lilly plans to leave for college in Boston and, in the denouement, Pauly, thinking in his delusional state to maintain the status quo, commits a horrifying crime that finally forces Oakley to act for himself. Lynch's writing is spare, both when setting forth the action and when incorporating free verse by Oakley and Pauly. While the publisher describes this work as short stories, the progression of events and the deterioration of the triangle depend on a sequential reading, and the mood darkens incrementally. The bleak, detached handling of disturbing, often violent material reserves this work for mature readers. Ages 12-up. (May)