cover image Dive


Adele Griffin. Hyperion Books, $14.99 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0440-5

While Griffin's (The Other Shepards) cast here is as compelling as ever, her latest novel seems much like a series of character sketches. As the book opens, Ben, the 11-year-old narrator, addresses his absent 17-year-old stepbrother, Dustin. ""You would have called her a fruitcake,"" Ben begins, referring to Mallory, the woman he is dialing on the phone. The chapters alternate between the present and flashbacks. It emerges that Mallory has been seeing Ben's stepfather, Lyle; Ben is calling to tell Mallory that Dustin is injured and in the hospital; Ben's mother, Gina, left Lyle a year and a half ago, but Ben chose to remain with him; Dustin, Lyle's own son, ran away to live with Gina, who called to inform Lyle of Dustin's accident. Whew! Ben's memories of Dustin lay the groundwork for his hypothesis that Dustin planned his accident; consequently the ending is unlikely to surprise readers. The flashbacks lead up to the climactic scene in which Ben faces Dustin in the hospital, but here the second-person narrative becomes problematic. For example, Dustin tells Ben that he thinks Mallory is a fruitcake, calling the opening line of the novel into question. Is Ben's address intended as a post-mortem? Poetic images infuse the novel, but ultimately the conflicts feel unresolved. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)