cover image Jailbait


Leslea Newman. Delacorte Press, $15.95 (239pp) ISBN 978-0-385-73198-0

Set in Long Island in the 1970s, Newman's (Hachiko Waits) novel is both engrossing and chilling. Narrator Andi Kaplan is lonely: her brother is at college, and her best friend moved away. Now the most attention she gets is from an obnoxious boy who teases her about her large breasts. When a man she's been waving to on her walk home from school stops and tells her to get into his car, it feels like what she has ""been waiting for my entire life."" But Frank is no ideal ""boyfriend"": they must keep their relationship secret (her age, almost 16, makes her ""jailbait""). Plus, Frank is moody (""sunny one minute, stormy the next,"" Andi says). While he can be kind, he is also controlling. He repeatedly takes her to an abandoned house, where he takes pictures of her in lingerie he buys for her; the first time they have sex, she justifies his insensitivity as pent-up excitement (""I'm sure once he gets used to the fact that he can do anything he wants to me whenever he feels like it, everything will be just fine""). Readers are likely to simultaneously grow angry at Andi for her illusions about their relationship, and feel sorry for her as she is taken advantage of, and even forced into a sex act (described as ""something that makes what we did yesterday intercourse look like a walk in the park""). They will even see her ultimate ability to stand up for herself as part of a loss of innocence. Ages 14-up.