cover image Ever After

Ever After

Rachel Vail. Orchard Books (NY), $15.95 (166pp) ISBN 978-0-531-06838-0

The tried-and-true theme of best friends growing apart has been central to many, many YA novels. Vail's ( Wonder ) bittersweet foray into this familiar territory is an unusually absorbing adventure, thanks to her characteristic honesty and her eye for telling detail. Year-round residents of Nantucket-like Leeward Island, Molly and Vicky have been best friends their entire lives, but the appearance of Grace, a relatively sophisticated summer vacationer, threatens their apparently cozy relationship. However--as the narrative (in the form of Molly's diary entries) gradually makes clear--the girls' longstanding friendship is already fatally flawed. Angry, anguished and intensely possessive, manipulative Vicky employs countless strategies (anything from telling Molly she looks fat to convincing her to drop out of the high school's honor math course) to keep an emotional hold on her ``best friend.'' Though loyal, empathetic Molly can accommodate a great deal of difficult behavior, Vicky eventually goes too far, unforgivably betraying Molly's trust. That Vicky and Molly's rift is likely to be permanent (and not a spat that can resolved by a good talk and sugary well-wishing) is just one hallmark of the authenticity of this carefully conceived story. Ages 11-14. (Apr.)