cover image How I Changed My Life

How I Changed My Life

Todd Strasser, Michael Milton. Little Simon, $16 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-671-88415-4

Aside from its jacket illustration of a pensive girl, this tautly written novel, alternately narrated by a sidelined jock and the pudgy introvert who has a crush on him, holds appeal to readers of both sexes. Benched by a football injury, high school senior Kyle is doing poorly even in the ``Pinhead'' classes, his old crowd-including picture-perfect girlfriend Chloe-bores him, while his stepmother Jackie and ``IT,'' his toddler half-brother, give him no peace at home. For a change of pace, he accepts the leading male role in the school play, to the delight of co-narrator ``Bo'' Vine, the stage manager, and the dismay of Chloe, who, as usual, is the star. The wallflower/football hero/ prom queen triangle plays out, with Bo becoming increasingly svelte as she learns to stage-manage her own life, and Kyle learning the proper way to act both on and off the stage. But just as the story seems about to reach the classic payoff, Strasser (The Accident) gives it an unexpected and refreshing twist. Bo may not get her man, but she does get the last word. Strasser's acknowledgment of enduring truths becomes all the more palatable for being so engagingly presented. Ages 12-up. (May)