cover image Girlhearts


Norma Fox Mazer. HarperCollins Publishers, $15.99 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-688-13350-4

Exploring the aftermath of a family tragedy, this contemporary problem novel provides the intense psychological drama Mazer fans crave, but lacks the suspenseful edge of her After the Rain and Out of Control. The opening chapters will instantly command readers' sympathy and rapt attention, as narrator Sarabeth describes her young, widowed mother's heart attack and subsequent death. The pace slows considerably after the initial crisis has passed and the author focuses on the 13-year-old's misery. With Sarabeth's vision blurred by grief, readers will need patience to develop a clear sense of the minor characters, among them Sarabeth's loyal girlfriends, her new friend James and the adults who decide her future. As Sarabeth is placed in the overcrowded home of her mother's best friend and assigned a social worker, Mazer conveys the heroine's feelings of shock, numbness, loneliness and powerlessness with her usual authenticity. But there are few surprises here; from the moment Sarabeth explains that her parents were essentially disowned by their families, most readers will anticipate that an encounter with these previously unmet relatives will spur Sarabeth's emotional recovery. The strength of this novel lies in its intimate recognition of the way adolescents think and feel. Ages 10-up. (May)