cover image Split Just Right

Split Just Right

Adele Griffin. Hyperion Books, $14.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0347-7

Capaciously evoked characters and settings are the draw in Griffin's second novel as the author exchanges the gravity of her Rainy Season for a bubblier plot. The narrator, 14-year-old Danny Finzimer (birth name Dandelion), lives with her free-spirited mom, a sometimes actress, in a small apartment in Philadelphia and attends the tony girls' school where her mother teaches drama. She has no memories of her father, but cherishes the romantic stories her mother has woven about him. Then Danny's mother loses a lucrative stint as the lead in a series of local commercials and, as Danny learns from her friends at school, takes up waitressing at a popular restaurant. As Danny fends off her classmates' patronizing remarks, she grows increasingly impatient with her mother, who says nothing about her new job and instead lies about where she is spending her time. Angry, Danny writes a letter to her father--which, in a stale plot device, she mixes up with an entry for a fiction contest--and soon discovers that her mother has fabricated the story of her courtship, too. What elevates this above a problem novel is Griffin's perceptiveness: Danny's effervescent narration brings her whole milieu to life, freeing the characters from simple typecasting as good guys or bad guys and allowing them to emerge as human and worthy of empathy. Diverting and rewarding. Ages 10-up. (May)