cover image Daring to Be Abigail

Daring to Be Abigail

Rachel Vail. Orchard Books (NY), $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-531-09517-1

Abigail has decided that her 11th summer-and her first at sleep-away camp-will be one of transformation. Far away from the neighborhood kids and classmates who think she's a wimp, Abigail longs to become brave, hoping she can show them all and finally make her father proud, even if he died three years earlier. The lengths to which she goes to win new friends and develop a reputation for fearlessness are at the core of this humorous and heartbreaking novel. Throughout swimming, canoeing and macrame, Abigail bonds with all her bunkmates, including the annoying, baton-twirling Dana. Now known for never backing down on a dare, Abigail plays a prank nasty enough to badly embarrass Dana and to get herself kicked out of camp. Vail (Wonder; Do-Over) exposes the complicated emotional life of an 11-year-old girl by freshly capturing the pain, awkwardness and downright bewilderment of that age. Her snappy, realistic dialogue and dead-on descriptions of campers' body language anchor the proceedings in a readily recognizable pre-teen world. And Abigail's knowing assessments of her situation and her eventual self-acceptance, beautifully characterized by handwritten letters to her mother (and father) at the end of each chapter, are tender, powerful counterpoints that balance-but don't deflate-the book's many lighthearted moments. Ages 9-11. (Apr.)