cover image JINX


Margaret Wild, . . Walker, $16.95 (215pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-8830-6

Connected poems, ranging in length from three lines to two pages, compellingly tell the story of Jen, a self-proclaimed jinx. Here, Wild (The Very Best of Friends; Our Granny) gently traces the ebb and flow of Jen's observations and changing moods as she weathers the tragic, unrelated deaths of two consecutive boyfriends. The volume also offers an intimate glimpse of those closest to the teen: her parents, who divorced when Jen's sister, Grace, was "born imperfect"; Jen's ill-fated boyfriends, who are haunted by different forms of personal demons; and Jen's best friends, "ruthlessly" honest Ruth, whose "kind eyes" note everything, unselfconscious Connie, a lesbian, and starved-for-attention Serena. Poems from several different perspectives make readers privy to both close-up and distant views of Jen's world as she moves from "good girl" to "slut" ("The word is so juicily sexual—/ slut/ slot/ slit," she remarks) in the wake of her grief. The protagonist's bouts of anger, grief and self-doubt melt in a ray of hope that emerges unexpectedly from the boy who accidentally killed Jen's second beau. Though it's sometimes necessary to read between the lines (especially when gleaning a sense of her first boyfriend, "Good-time Charlie"), many of the brief narratives precisely capture the spirit of a character, feeling or moment. Together, the poems create something larger: a portrait of a young woman pulling herself out of despair. Ages 14-up. (Aug.)