cover image The Life History of a Star

The Life History of a Star

Kelly Easton. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $16 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-689-83134-8

Watergate and Patty Hearst help form the 1973-1974 backdrop to this arresting first novel, told through journal entries. Kristin Folger's typical coming-of-age crises (beginning menstruation, ambivalence about her awakening sexuality) are overshadowed by the ""ghost"" in her attic and its pervasive influence on her family's life. A profusion of period details (references to TV shows, bands, products) and sarcastic observations about her parents' shortcomings and school get the story off to a slightly choppy start. But it doesn't take long for the 14-year-old to find her voice she reports psychologically rich dreams, recapitulates her revealing dialogues with friends and longs for escape (at one point she even sends for a brochure from a ritzy Swiss boarding school). At times, the novel is genuinely funny, perhaps all the more so because of its wrenching contrasts. A quarter of the way through, the ""ghost"" is revealed as Kristin's beloved older brother, David, destroyed by the Vietnam War. David's condition is never spelled out; it is enough to see its effects on the family. Easton is ambitious in her combination of the witty and the tragic, and the authenticity of her protagonist is never in doubt. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)