cover image The Dark Card

The Dark Card

Amy Ehrlich. Viking Children's Books, $13.95 (180pp) ISBN 978-0-670-83733-5

As alluring and emotionally taut as Ehrlich's Where It Stops, Nobody Knows , this modern drama explores the double life of Laura Samuels, who has recently lost her mother to cancer. While spending the summer alone in her family's vacation home near Atlantic City, N.J., the 17-year-old struggles to come to terms with her grief. Her friendship with neighbor Bill Ruzzo proves to be a welcome distraction, but even after the relationship takes a romantic turn, Laura still feels moments of discontent and eventually is lured by the excitement found in the local casinos. Wearing layers of make-up and her mother's best clothes, she sneaks into Trump Plaza, where she becomes acquainted with Ari Hassan, a blackjack player. Her infatuation leads to a series of secret encounters and, almost too late, Laura realizes the danger in becoming involved with the mysterious stranger. Once again, the author presents a highly original plot centered around a cast of intriguing characters. Her masterful control of language, ability to build suspense and keen psychological insights are sure to impress readers. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)