cover image Malibu Carmie

Malibu Carmie

Leah Komaiko, . . Delacorte, $15.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-385-73172-0

Carmie Hoffman, the 13-year-old heroine of Komaiko's (Annie Bananie ) promising but ultimately disappointing novel, pens scripts about a fantasy life in which she's rich and beautiful. In her real life, she is spending the summer in the hot Los Angeles valley with a sad mother, who "couldn't stop being tired" since her father left three years ago. When Carmie's best friend meets a cute surfer boy, he invites them to Malibu beach—and Carmie's mother, Elaine, drives them there. Carmie is shocked when her mother catches a wave on a borrowed surfboard; it turns out Elaine used to be a surfer, and her old surfer friends, including a boyfriend named Moondoggie, still hang out at that same beach. Carmie see a chance for her mother to be happy again, and to even find love herself. Carmie's over-the-top screenplays, which run throughout the novel, serve as a clever way to track her evolving fantasies, and readers will likely identify with the heroine's emotions, from her concern for her mother, to her own anxiety about her body (she wears jeans over her swimsuit). But despite the promising elements of the story, the narrative unfolds slowly, and the characters never seem completely true to life. Ages 8-12. (May)