cover image In the Cards: Love

In the Cards: Love

Mariah Fredericks, . . Atheneum/Jackson, $15.99 (270pp) ISBN 978-0-689-87654-7

The first in a planned trilogy that explores clique dynamics for middle-graders, Fredericks's (The True Meaning of Cleavage ) twist is a set of tarot cards left to narrator Anna by an elderly woman for whom she catsat, and who recently passed away. Anna, a self-proclaimed "blah nobody," has a crush on geek-turned-hottie Declan. The eighth-grader thinks she's too boring to snag him, but her two best friends, Eve and Syd (each of whom will narrate one of the next two installments), do a tarot card reading that indicates Anna will get the boy. So the two take her shopping to improve Anna's image. The heroine is disappointed to learn (via the Web site "Zoe's World," run by the school gossip) that Declan locked lips with what the friends refer to as "P&P" ("pretty and perfect") Alexa (aka "La Diva") at a Halloween party. But the popular gal is too into P.D.A. for the former geek, so he chooses madeover Anna instead. Anna's ego balloons and she blows off her buddies to spend more time with her now aloof boyfriend. The author aptly captures the jealousy, pettiness and self-consciousness run amok that often accompanies all the worst things about middle school. A subtheme about Oedipus and fate echoes the issues with which Anna grapples. The heroine's intelligent, sympathetic character saves this from falling in line with the more formulaic titles in its genre. Ages 10-14. (Dec.)