cover image The Battle of Darcy Lane

The Battle of Darcy Lane

Tara Altebrando. Running Press, $14.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-7624-4948-4

Altebrando (The Best Night of Your [Pathetic] Life) makes a confident detour into middle-grade with this pensive summer-of-change story. Her 12-year-old old heroine, Julia, isn’t quite so confident: a new girl, Alyssa, has moved onto Darcy Lane, and her arrival drives an immediate wedge between Julia and best friend Taylor. Sniping comments are traded, feelings are hurt, pranks are deployed, and crushes on boys are wielded as weapons, all building to a faceoff between Julia and Alyssa in a competitive ball-bouncing game called Russia (playing instructions are included). Altebrando brings rich, realistic depth to all of her characters, including Julia’s very-in-love parents—their interactions with Julia are easily as important to the story as Julia’s strained friendships. The author provides just enough glimpses into Taylor and Alyssa’s home lives to generate a bit of empathy for them (even when they’re being truly cruel to Julia), without letting them off the hook—and Julia isn’t blameless either. It’s a smart, sensitive portrait of an age when change is in the air, for better or worse. Ages 8–12. [em]Agent: David Dunton, Harvey Klinger. (May) [/em]