cover image If You Only Knew

If You Only Knew

Rachel Vail. Scholastic, $14.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-590-03370-1

Vail (Ever After) returns to familiar territory, chronicling the trials and triumphs of adolescence in this first in a trio of novels that examines the pleasures and pitfalls of junior-high friendships. Each book is narrated by a different girl, thereby offering readers insights into each character's personality and motivations. Here, seventh-grader Zoe Grandon learns that friendships involve contradictions: sharing confidences can result in betrayals, personal triumphs can elicit jealousy and being different can engender suspicion. Clearly different from her friends, Zoe cares little about what she wears, plays sports with the boys and feels large and clumsy compared to graceful CJ, a ballerina, and tough Morgan, a sophisticate when it comes to boys. Vail's perceptive portrayals of Zoe's stumbling attempts to win CJ as her best friend and to capture the affections of one of her pals, Tommy (""I refuse to go boy-crazy like my sisters, just because Tommy has deep dimples""), are simultaneously poignant and humorous--and sometimes painful. In between Zoe's growing awareness that she can survive life's pitfalls, Vail weaves in details about Zoe's home situation, showing that appearances rarely comprise the whole picture (e.g., the happy exterior of the Grandon clan hides Zoe's worries about the angry relationship between her rebellious sister and their father). Bravo to Vail for painting a true, intimate portrait (enhanced by the small, keep-it-with-you trim size) of what life is like for a seventh grader: a heartbreaking and glorious rollercoaster ride. Ages 9-13. (July) FYI: The other two novels are narrated by Zoe's friends: CJ's Please, Please, Please, also releases in July, and the other, from Morgan's point of view, Not That I Care, is scheduled for a November release.