cover image What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows

What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows

Nora Raleigh Baskin. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $16.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-316-07021-8

Gabby, the sixth-grade narrator of this bittersweet, emotionally complex first novel, ardently wishes she had someone to teach her how to be more like a girl (""or womanly or girlish or feminine, whatever you want to call it""). Gabby was three when her mother died, and she doesn't get much guidance from her art professor dad or older brother. Her father's girlfriend, Cleo, seems to be teaching Gabby a lot, but the more Gabby learns about girlhood, the more complicated life gets. Will Gabby measure up to the standards of Mrs. Tyler, mother of Gabby's new best friend? As Cleo and her dad get engaged, can Gabby call Cleo ""Mom""? Then there are even more disturbing puzzles, such as why Cleo suddenly breaks up with Gabby's father, and why the subject of Gabby's mother is always carefully avoided. Possessing a keen understanding of pubescent concerns and a good ear for ""tween"" talk, Baskin sensitively renders the tumultuous period between childhood and adolescence. Although the author focuses on conflicts specific to girls, she also pays close attention to shaping the males in her book, making them three-dimensional, sympathetic characters, who, readers will sense, have stories as complex as Gabby's. Resolutions are not sugar-coated, and the light at the end of Gabby's journey into womanhood seems real. Ages 9-12. (Apr.)