cover image Unfinished Portrait of Jessica

Unfinished Portrait of Jessica

Richard Peck. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $15 (162pp) ISBN 978-0-385-30500-6

After her father leaves the family, Jessica becomes numb and resentful. She scorns her mother and longs for the company of her father. At Christmas, Jessica's dream seems to come true: she is sent to Mexico to visit her father. Once there, Jessica must come to terms with the truth about her unreliable yet charismatic parent. She also admits that her mother is not the drab washout she believes her to be, but is in fact a well-known romance novelist. The ease and assurance with which Peck describes the particulars of Jessica's life make her a convicing and sympathetic protagonist. There are moments when the plot seems a bit pat--such as Jessica's discovery that her favorite escapist reading was written by her mother. For the most part, however, Peck--known for his sensitive portrayals of teenagers and their concerns--succeeds in charting the bittersweet journey from a childhood filled with wishful thinking to a more clearsighted adulthood. Ages 12-up. (Nov.)