Caroline Leavitt, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-312-27122-0

A starred or boxed review indicates a book of outstanding quality. A review with a blue-tinted title indicates a book of unusual commercial interest that hasn't received a starred or boxed review.

GIRLS IN TROUBLECaroline Leavitt. St. Martin's, $24.95 (368p) ISBN 0-312-27122-0

Leavitt's uneven but earnest eighth novel examines the emotional price a bright Massachusetts teen pays when she chooses "open" adoption for a baby she gives birth to at 16. It's 1987, and smart Sara Rothman has fallen in love with "black sheep" Danny Slade. When he vanishes after learning she's pregnant, Sara gives the baby up. Leavitt (Coming Back to Me) poignantly depicts the consequences of that choice for everyone concerned: Sara, who misses her baby and Danny both; Abby and Jack, Sara's well-meaning parents; Danny, the young father; George and Eva Rivers, the attentive but naïve adoptive couple; and Anne, the child. At first, Sara visits the Riverses daily—she loves Anne, and the Riverses had cared for her while she was pregnant. But her presence becomes intrusive, and eventually, Eva takes a stand: "We adopted Anne," she tells Sara. "We didn't adopt you." Sara then makes a desperate attempt to steal the infant, and when she's found, the Riverses move and deny Sara visiting rights ("Open adoptions are only enforceable in Oregon," a lawyer tells her). Fifteen years pass, and Leavitt's focus wavers; a fuzzy reunion between Danny and Sara is particularly unconvincing. The novel's portrait of dreamy, adolescent Anne and her relationship with the older Riverses is sharper, as is the realistic, bumpy reunion of birth mother and daughter. An unflinching depiction of maternal need and the dynamics of adoption, this tale is a sharp reminder of the importance of honesty in life decisions. Agent, Gail Hochman.(Dec.)

Reviewed on: 09/29/2003
Release date: 01/01/2004
Paperback - 424 pages - 978-986-6535-46-8
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-4299-7681-7
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-312-33973-9
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