cover image Seth and Samona

Seth and Samona

Joanne Hyppolite. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $13.95 (121pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32093-1

An unusually strong cast populates this ambitious first novel, set in Boston. Narrator Seth Michelin, the youngest of a closely knit Haitian American family, has spent two years trying in vain to distance himself from Samona Gemini, the kooky, flamboyant daughter of a free-spirited poet who happens to be a friend of Mrs. Michelin. The warmth-and the strict codes of honor and propriety-that bind Seth's family prove a powerful attraction to Samona, just as they will to the reader, while Seth's fresh voice adds witty counterpoint. Hyppolite errs, however, in adding too many complications. Seth's older brother, for example, serves essentially as a mouthpiece for observations on being a person of color in America; there's also a brief foray into a neighborhood of gun-toting youths and some discussion of women's roles in traditional families. The plot wobbles under so much baggage, and the final story lines, about Samona's participation in a girls' beauty pageant, lose their force. Even with these flaws, Hyppolite's promise is unmistakable, and readers will hope for encore appearances from her characters. Ages 8-12. (May)