cover image Don't Blame the Music

Don't Blame the Music

Caroline B. Cooney. Pacer Books, $14.95 (172pp) ISBN 978-0-448-47778-7

Cooney has written a shattering novel about the power of one person to control and tear apart a family. Susan is a high school senior when her older sister Ashley rolls back into townAshley, whose musical success launched her on the road to superstardom. But Ashley's bright light dimmed, and she ignored everyone and everything in pursuit of fame. Her parents, who just want their daughter back, welcome her. Yet Susan, from the beginning, senses that something is terribly wrong. Ashley vents her anger from years of frustration in violent tirades. Though Susan tries to stay involved in school and in mundane matters, she finds herself and her family sucked into Ashley's hate. In one horrible scene Ashley tries to light Susan on fire after soaking her with gasoline. She finally agrees to commit herself to getting help. Cooney's observant eye and sharply humorous tone, edged with irony, makes this a stunning departure from her earlier, lighter novels; this is one of the season's best works of YA fiction. (12-up)