cover image Hand Me Down

Hand Me Down

Melanie Thorne. Dutton, $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-525-95268-8

Thorne’s debut is a dramatic game of musical chairs wherein teenage sisters Elizabeth and Jamie Reid struggle to find their respective places in the world after their divorced parents’ delinquencies—Dad’s a drunk and Mom is remarried to a sexually predacious ex-con—force them to take life into their own hands. Liz initially goes to live with Aunt Tammy, though Uncle Sam isn’t fond of the new houseguest, and Liz misses her sister. Jamie moves in with Dad and proves true the adage about the apple and the tree when she starts skipping school and hanging around liquor stores. Both girls eventually wind up in the conservative Christian home of Aunt Deborah, where Jamie finds comfort and stability, but Liz is left yearning for Aunt Tammy. An explosive encounter finally forces the broken family to face the sad reality of their situation, though not everyone is ready to reform. Thorne writes convincingly from an adolescent’s perspective, admitting to having mined her own experiences. The family is believably and sadly dysfunctional, and readers will empathize with each character through their highs and lows. Despite a lackluster ending, this is an intriguing first outing by a talented new writer. Agent: Trena Keating, Keating Literary. (Apr.)