cover image The Cloud Chamber

The Cloud Chamber

Joyce Maynard, . . Atheneum/Schwartz, $16.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-689-87152-8

Maynard (The Usual Rules ) sets her deeply moving coming-of-age novel in rural America during the late 1960s. The story begins with hard-hitting drama: 14-year-old Nate Chance comes home from school one day to find that his father, a struggling farmer, has tried (and failed) to commit suicide. Then, taking on a reflective tone, the book goes on to explore how the incident impacts the family. As rumors about Nate's "psycho" father spread throughout their small community, Nate suddenly finds himself an outcast at school and in town. Even his best friend, Larry, acts distant. To make things worse, no one at home will talk about the incident, and Nate remains separated from his father, who is recovering in a mental institution 300 miles away. Nate finds a welcome distraction in his science fair project, a cloud chamber that will illuminate cosmic rays present in the atmosphere. While planning and constructing the chamber with his assigned partner, Naomi, Nate begins to sort out his feelings for his father, accept the changes that are occurring at home and understand the pain of another shunned student. The author's poignant third-person narrative, told from Nate's perspective, offers an intimate rendering of emotional anguish and a subtly conveyed meditation on survival and forgiveness. Ages 11-14. (June)