cover image The Joker and the Thief

The Joker and the Thief

Raymond Obstfeld. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $15 (230pp) ISBN 978-0-385-30855-7

Obstfeld's first young adult book unites two 17-year-olds who, despite widely different backgrounds, struggle with the same difficult issues, broken families and adolescent sexuality among them. Eric, the model student from Washington, D.C., has planned a secret rendezvous with Didra, his college-student girlfriend, at her parents' unoccupied vacation home, where he hopes to lose his virginity. But someone else has hidden at the cabin--Griffin, a runaway from a juvenile detention center in rural Virginia. The street-smart youth radiates a devilish charm, and despite some intense scuffling, Eric forfeits opportunities to turn the fellow in. As his relationship with Didra crumbles, he forges a brotherly bond with Griffin. Protracted flashbacks disrupt the action, but otherwise the the writing is top-notch. Alternately poignant, suspenseful and wryly humorous, this adventure should captivate a large readership. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)