cover image Water Balloon

Water Balloon

Audrey Vernick. Clarion, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-547-59554-2

Picture-book author Vernick (Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums) delivers her first novel, a well-paced coming-of-age story that offers a realistic depiction of growing pains. Marley's summer before eighth grade is looking pretty disastrous. With her parents recently separated, Marley will be living with her father while her mother is away, first on a road trip and then helping care for Marley's grandmother. Isolation creeps in when Marley discovers that her father has no Internet service; her two theater-camp obsessed best friends have no time for her; and, worst of all, she's forced into a job babysitting feisty five-year-old twins. Trying to reconnect with her friends, she pulls a favorite prank involving water balloons at an inopportune moment. But the family dog, a new neighbor (a friendly guy with "smart eyes, a strange light blue"), and even the twins help Marley adapt to all of the sudden changes in her world. Vernick conveys Marley's uncertain navigation of new experiences and conflicting emotions with sincerity and keen perception. Ages 9%E2%80%9312. (Sept.)