cover image Tangled


Carolyn Mackler, . . HarperTeen, $16.99 (308pp) ISBN 978-0-06-173104-4

Mackler's latest is structured as four interconnecting novellas that explore the gulf between teenagers' inner lives and what they project externally. Starting with awkward Jena's Caribbean vacation, Mackler (Vegan Virgin Valentine ) is at her best with the kind of insecurities readers will find familiar, be it Jena's carefully chosen flight outfit (“under the glaring lights of Kennedy airport it all felt wrong”) or her self-consciousness around Skye, the glamorous daughter of her mother's best friend. Jena has a fling with studly Dakota, who narrates the second novella. Dakota is the least likable character (earlier, he tells Jena, “[Y]ou have some fine-looking tits”), but his growth as he reflects on his rocky relationship with his girlfriend, who died in a car accident, is moving. Privileged Manhattanite Skye is at the center of the third story, which exposes the depression under the surface of her seemingly charmed life. The final tale, about Owen, Dakota's brother, ties up various loose ends and provides a happy ending. Mackler's protagonists have distinct, engaging voices; if the book never gets terribly deep, it's still an entertaining read. Ages 14–up. (Jan.)