cover image Make Believe

Make Believe

Susan Beth Pfeffer. Henry Holt & Company, $14.95 (135pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-1754-0

Seventh graders Carrie Baird-Talmann and Jill Densley have been best friends for as long as they can remember. But when Jill's father leaves his wife for another woman, the girls' relationship and their parents' long-standing friendship are dealt what may be a fatal blow. In an intriguing reworking of a classic problem-novel theme, the story is told from Carrie's point of view, not Jill's, and focuses on the Baird-Talmann clan's efforts to cope with the repercussions of the Densleys' separation. Unsure of how to reach out to her friend, Carrie is hurt and jealous when Jill seems to prefer the company of a classmate whose parents are divorced. The urgent, rather melodramatic narrative also describes Carrie's newfound anxieties: when her father fails to show up for a tennis date, she assumes that he, too, has abandoned his family. Only occasionally is the book's overall grimness alleviated by Pfeffer's ( The Year Without Michael ) wonderfully authentic snatches of preteen conversation. Contrived scenes--such as the ill-starred attempt of Jill's father to introduce his girlfriend to Carrie's family--and two-dimensional adult characters give the novel a stiff, preachy quality. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)