cover image The Top-Secret Journal of Fiona Claire Jardin

The Top-Secret Journal of Fiona Claire Jardin

Robin Cruise. Harcourt Children's Books, $13 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201383-7

Cruise's first novel, written in journal form, gives a painfully realistic account of life after divorce. Ten-year-old Fiona does not understand why her parents started fighting or how they drifted apart. She only knows that their divorce (which she spells with a capital D) has brought a series of unwelcome changes. Now Fiona gets stomachaches and keeps losing stuff (even her dog has disappeared) as she and her six-year-old brother shuttle back and forth between her mother and father. Worst of all, Fiona has forgotten how to laugh. Visits to a therapist, a ""darn snoop,"" are a waste of time in Fiona's opinion, as is keeping a diary (Fiona has promised her mother she will write for 20 minutes three times a week and thus avoid additional trips to the therapist). While the heroine's voice is undeniably honest, her pervasively bitter tone overshadows subtle, yet nonetheless essential, signs that her life is getting better. Her journal is more of a sounding board for complaints than a vehicle for sorting out problems, and because readers get no other point of view, it may be hard for some to follow Fiona's meandering path. At the end of the novel, it is evident that Fiona has developed a healthier, more optimistic attitude, but only the most perceptive readers will be able to track the stages of her improvement. Ages 9-up. (Apr.)