cover image Missing the Piano

Missing the Piano

Adam Rapp / Author Viking Books $14.99 (0p) ISBN 978-0-670-953

This promising but not entirely successful debut novel explores one young man's painful coming-of-age. Looking forward to the new school year and playing on the basketball team, Mike Tegroff faces an altogether different set of circumstances when his younger sister lands a part in a road company of Les Miserables and his mother must chaperone her. His stepmother, who ``looks like hell's version of Vanna White,'' refuses to let him live with her and his weak-willed father, and Mike is summarily deposited at a military school. For all the talk about honor and justice, the academy is dominated by brutal and bigoted students. Mike finds strength and protection in his roommate, Truvoy, a black cadet who has been transferred into Mike's squad after striking a student officer who called him a ``nigger.'' When Truvoy is viciously beaten by two cadets and then expelled, Mike condemns himself for not coming to Truvoy's aid and must then confront his feelings about himself, his father and the school. The main characters' voices are authentic and generally engaging (although a scene of Truvoy teaching Mike to dance is marred by frequent use of the word ``faggola''), but the somewhat abrupt conclusion weakens the story. Ages 12-up. (May)