cover image Grounded


William Jaspersohn. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $13.95 (234pp) ISBN 978-0-553-05450-7

Too many coincidences mar this talky coming-of-age novel from noted nonfiction writer Jaspersohn. When Joe's parents ground him for laziness and disrespect, Joe begins to write a play in class called ``A Troubled Teen,'' in which the protagonist, also Joe, asks about life and its meaning. His classmates steal the play, and Joe's outburst leads to a two-week suspension from school. He runs away, hitchhiking from Connecticut to Cape Cod; there, events lead to his stowing away on a boat belonging to the family of a girl, Nan, whom he's just met. Nan has to hide Joe from her family long enough to figure out a way to get him back to the mainland. Then Joe sees two hired men setting up a drug deal that involves Nan's grandfather's guest, a mysterious businessman. Will Joe be able to capture the drug dealers while keeping Nan safe? The plot veers into the realm of the incredible when none of the so-called drug dealers turns out to be what they seemed. Joe returns home older and wiser, makes up with his family and gets literary advice on his play from Joseph Papp, all of which strains readers' credulity. This is of limited appeal. Ages 14-up. (Nov.)