cover image Wrecked


E. R. Frank, . . Atheneum/Jackson, $15.95 (247pp) ISBN 978-0-689-87383-6

Frank's (Life Is Funny ) newest book deals with a family torn apart when 16-year old narrator Anna kills her brother's girlfriend, whose car swerves into Anna's lane as she drives home from a party. "The day I killed my brother's girlfriend started with me handpicking leaves off our front lawn," the novel begins, alternating between the present and flashbacks. At its best, the structure allows for moments of clarity as Anna makes sense of her family's tensions, such as a scene involving her cleaning her parents' glass collection and her controlling father asking, "Remember when Jack broke the bud vase?" Anna takes the opportunity to admit that she had broken that vase six years before, marking a sea change within her. At times, however, these juxtapositions of past and present are not as fluidly integrated, serving to distance readers from the characters. As the novel goes on, the pace picks up. Frank offers a nakedly honest portrayal of the ups and downs that plague Anna day in and day out as she attempts to deal with the aftermath of her trauma. She experiences guilt and a fear of love, and eventually gains the knowledge that whatever life throws one's way, "mostly you realize you can handle it." With her powerful staccato writing style and her aversion to fairytale flourishes, Frank creates credible, all too human characters figuring out life as they go. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)