cover image Bel Air Bambi and the Mall Rats

Bel Air Bambi and the Mall Rats

Richard Peck. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $14.95 (183pp) ISBN 978-0-385-30823-6

Neither Southern California brats nor ornery hicks escape the malice of this rather mean-hearted slapstick novel. When Buffie Babcock's TV producer father goes broke, he and his family say ``good-bye to all we knew and the total California experience'' and hightail it to Hickory Fork, where Mr. Babcock grew up. Smack-dab in an unenlightened (and unnamed) part of Middle America, this formerly bucolic hamlet is now in the thrall of a thuggish group of high school students. Outraged, Buffie's older sister Bambi--a quintessential Valley Girl with eternally perfect hair--takes charge. In a convoluted plot (involving a ghost story, a fixed football game and a brand-new TV pilot directed by Buffie's father) justice is restored, the local economy receives a much-needed boost and Mr. Babcock makes enough money to buy a Range Rover and return his kids to their rightful home. Even at its most snide (``After Pinetree Trace, which they hated the most, the football team would be playing Toad Suck, Oil Trough, Possum Trot, Natural Steps, Viny Grove, and Booger Holler''), the narrative manages to be snappy, moving at a rackety gallop. But it's slick and compassionless, comparing poorly with such Peck titles as Unfinished Portrait of Jessica . Ages 12-up. (Oct.)