cover image The Falcon

The Falcon

Jackie Koller. Atheneum Books, $17 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81294-1

Luke Carver thinks that keeping a journal ""sounds like a chick thing."" Nonetheless, his English teacher wants him to write a little each day in preparation for the all- important college essay he will have to compose next year. Once he gets going, the 17-year-old doesn't mind writing, and he's pretty good at it, too; a poem he wrote several years ago, ""The Falcon,"" was published in a magazine. His entries initiate a compelling journey of self-discovery. Luke's descriptions of his recent ""screw-ups""--blowing a couple of wrestling meets, wrecking the car several times and leaving the scene of an accident--seem to flow fast and furiously from his pen, but when his thoughts turn to a bigger crisis, losing his left eye, he stops short. Crossed-out, half-finished sentences provide a less-than- subtle trail of clues to the source of Luke's problems, including the guilt he feels for not living up to his parents' expectations. While Koller's (A Place to Call Home) foreshadowing feels clumsy and contrived, readers will feel the weight of the painful secret Luke has carried for four years, and they can't fail to miss his resemblance to the bird in his poem, who ""sits/ with his head sagging down/ and his eyes staring up/ a chain around his leg."" Ages 12-up. (May)