Nancy Garden, . . FSG, $15 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-374-34943-1

Two girls, one working-class and the other wealthy, become friends in Garden's (Annie on My Mind; Holly's Secret) uncharacteristically simplistic novel. Told from the perspective of 11-year-old Allie Ward, the story takes place over one summer on quaint Seal Island, Maine, where Melanie Rochambeau's father has just inherited his mother's elegant vacation house. Characterizations run very thin, at times approaching stereotype. While old-moneyed Mr. Rochambeau takes after his mother in his respect for the locals, Mrs. Rochambeau is a snob and doesn't want Melanie to play with Allie, even though the girls like each other instantly. Allie's family, on the other hand, is salt of the earth—Ma, who cleans the Rochambeau house, is "never so tired that she didn't have a smile on her face or a squeeze or a cuddle for any of [her children]"; lobsterman Daddy always has words of wisdom for his "Sweet Allie." The contrast between the families is thrown into relief when Melanie divulges that her older unwed sister, Mary Scarlett, is pregnant, and rather than encouraging her to marry the "foreign... not suitable" father, Mrs. Rochambeau plans to have the baby adopted; Allie vows to help Mary Scarlett run away. Despite Allie's intelligence and resourcefulness, however, she can't make sense of the mysterious goings-on at an abandoned shack, which most readers will easily connect to a scheme involving Mary Scarlett. There's enough local color to hold the audience, but not enough emotional depth to give the story an afterlife. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)