cover image Twenty-Four Hours

Twenty-Four Hours

Margaret Mahy. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $17 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-689-83884-2

Mahy (Memory; The Changeover) once again captures age-old yet contemporary adolescent sensibilities. Ellis, an aspiring actor who has just graduated from prep school, runs into an old public school friend who leads him on a 24-hour escapade into a very different social stratum. Together they end up in the Land-of-Smiles, a run-down former motel and gathering place for aging activists, tattoo artists, hairdressers and other fringe characters. Ellis develops a crush on Leona, the middle of three sisters who preside over the hotel and who have virtually raised themselves. For Leona, he embarks on a chase to find a kidnapped child, leading him simultaneously to the culpritDa boy from his own privileged societyDand to a newfound sense of self. Mahy laces Ellis's narrative with Shakespearean references both to contrast the hero's wealthy circumstances with the poverty of the Land-of-Smiles and to discuss metaphorically the prospect of death for those who fear it and those who do not. These references tend to romanticize hardship (""If you live our sort of life you get to love things that don't turn out quite right,"" says Leona's older sister), but the quick pace and assemblage of quirky, appealing characters will hook readers. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)