cover image Rainy Season CL

Rainy Season CL

Adele Griffin. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $14.95 (200pp) ISBN 978-0-395-81181-8

Ambitiously conceived and sharply observed, this debut novel points to a promising new talent. Making few concessions to her audience, Griffin describes a single day in the life of 12-year-old Lane Beck, daughter of a career Army officer stationed in the Panama Canal. It's 1977, and Lane and her unruly younger brother, Charlie, are at the end of an unexpected vacation occasioned by the flooding of their school. This mishap, mentioned only peripherally, foretells a larger, unstated theme about acknowledging forces or circumstances beyond a person's control. To her parents' annoyance, Lane suffers anxiety attacks: ""It's not like I can pretend I don't know why I get like this,"" Lane says at the end of the first chapter. Instead of spelling out Lane's history, Griffin unfolds the events of the day and lets the reader make sense of them. Lane and Charlie, it emerges, had an older sister, Emily, who died in a car accident, and Lane and Charlie's parents have attempted, military-style, to impose order on the family's grief by forbidding anyone to talk of Emily. That Griffin reveals this tragedy deep into her story without resorting to melodrama or otherwise manipulating the reader is in large part due to her rapid pacing and astute characterizations. Even the most minor of figures-an officer's nameless wife at a party, a girl trying to weasel out of a dare to jump from a water tower in the Canal-seems robust, to have a life beyond the page. This is not a perfect novel-the beginning in particular is difficult to penetrate-but it is an auspicious one. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)