cover image MAKING THE RUN


Heather Henson, . . HarperCollins/Cotler, $15.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-06-029796-1

Henson successfully captures both the beauty and banality of the rural Kentucky town where her first novel is set, but an excess of plot points muddle her story. Lu McClellan can't wait to leave Rainey: "Living in a small town is like living under a microscope. Every little thing magnified and studied." With two months to go before graduation and her 18th birthday, she bides the time by doing drugs, "making the run" (driving with her best friend, Ginny, around "Dead Man" curve to the next town, where alcohol is sold) and focusing on her passion for photography. When Jay, her much older brother's friend, returns to Rainey, she develops an intense relationship with him, which distances her still further from her father (and causes tensions with her brother). Between the photography, Lu's dysfunctional family (she saw her mother die years ago and dislikes her father's new girlfriend), her drug use, her feelings for Jay, Ginny's pregnancy and the foreboding road in and out of town, some story lines never get fleshed out (her reconciliation with her father, for example, seems hasty). But the world she inhabits will likely be seductive to teens, and the scenes of Lu partying with Ginny on a farm or watching Jay and her brother's band play at dives feel authentic. The compelling narrative voice will keep readers rooting for her to make it out of her hometown and into the larger world. Ages 13-up. (May)