Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson, . . Millbrook/ Roaring Brook, $15.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-7613-1746-3

In her debut, Johnson not only creates a refreshingly ordinary narrator living among realistically flawed family and friends, she also frankly and even humorously deals with the sensitive topics of sex and race. In suburban Maryland, during the summer Robin turns 15, her only friend moves away and her beauty-obsessed mother wants to put her chunky daughter on a diet. Robin often feels "piggy" and she gets lost in the shuffle as her mother plans her own wedding, her brother and his wife prepare for their baby's birth and her father ditches her with her young, beautiful stepmom (to play golf, Robin suspects). Robin is sensitive and can be pointed in her narration, and she has very human weaknesses (as when she sneaks Nutsie Boy cones), but she can also be clueless, like when she offends her first date, mixed-race Tri, by saying he's not "really black." While spying on her "hot" older neighbor, Frankie, she catches him having sex with her stepmother, which introduces her to a "parallel universe for liars," where people live their secret lives. Robin finds herself trapped in that world, too, when Frankie begins toying with her, engaging in foreplay and awakening her sexuality, but leaving her feeling guilty, too. Eventually, Robin must deal with her double life. Johnson handles these conflicts elegantly, with Robin making small gestures, rather than sweeping changes. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)