cover image The Arizona Kid

The Arizona Kid

Ron Koertge. Joy Street Books, $14.95 (228pp) ISBN 978-0-316-50101-9

Billy, 16, spends the summer in Tucson with his uncle, who is gay, working at a racetrack; he has his first sexual relationship with a girl, Cara Mae. These strands are easily woven together in a story that is fast (told mainly in dialogue) and often humorous. At the heart of it is Billy's growing sense of his own masculinity. His macho co-worker, Lew, is a survivalist and a constant source of sexual cliches; he makes a good foil for Billy. Billy's considerate uncle, meanwhile, offers him guidance in appropriate doses. The best part of the story, however, is Cara Mae's transition from defensiveness to trust as she returns Billy's affection. Koertge (Where the Kissing Never Stops) has written an entertaining book that advocates safe, responsible sex. The language is frank and the toneirreverent one moment and earnest the nexthas great appeal. Ages 12-up. (May)