cover image The Next Thing to Strangers

The Next Thing to Strangers

Sheri Cooper Sinykin / Author HarperCollins Publishers $12.95

Cass hasn't heard from her paternal grandparents since her father died 11 years ago and is puzzled by their unexpected invitation to spend Christmas vacation with them in Arizona. She is hoping that close ties will be established, but her feelings are hurt when her relatives turn out to be crotchety and standoffish. Meeting Jordy, another 14-year-old, helps, although the two occasionally clash. Coping with diabetes and his parents' divorce has given Jordy a bitter edge, exacerbated by his visit with his own temperamental grandparents. Cass, oversensitive about being plump, finds innuendos behind Jordy's innocent remarks. Gradually, however, they achieve a better understanding of themselves and their families. Sinykin frankly portrays the hardships confronting a diabetic, and her treatment of an overweight teen's sensitivity is equally valid. While the story is marred by the abrupt shifting of point of view between the two teenagers and the sudden (albeit gratifying) turnaround of their grandparents' attitudes, the characters are well-intentioned and sympathetic, and merit applause. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)