cover image Fastest Friend West

Fastest Friend West

Vicki Grove. Putnam Publishing Group, $14.95 (174pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22184-2

Lori isn't sure she wants to make friends with Vern, the strange new girl at school. Lori may be chubby and unpopular, but Vern is grubby and downright weird--and she doesn't even seem to know her own address. Loneliness throws the girls together, and a brief but intense friendship ensues. Vern and her family have been homeless for over a year, moving from town to town. When Vern leaves for what she hopes will be a permanent home, Lori finds that her own problems have dwindled and become quite manageable. At its best, Grove's tale calls to mind the poignant, pithy novels of Robbie Branscum and Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Unfortunately, a predictable plot and a handful of simplistic characterizations serve to blunt the story's jagged emotions. The novel's evolution seems to have halted at a stage midway between a conventional tale of popularity and something moving and unusual. Ages 8-12. (May)