cover image I Am an Artichoke

I Am an Artichoke

Lucy Frank. Holiday House, $14.95 (187pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1150-4

Despite the serious subject matter-anorexia and dysfunctional families-this accomplished first novel sparkles with deliciously wry humor. Narrator Sarah, 15, thinks that a summer job in New York City as a mother's helper is just the ticket to get her away from her ``terminally bland'' suburban family. Her fantasy is to work for an ideal family (composed of ``a basic father, a mother who was like your basic mother only nicer, and two cute basic little kids''). Instead she winds up with the redoubtable Mrs. Friedman and her wraithlike 12-year-old daughter, Emily, who barely eats and spends every spare moment pedaling furiously on an exercise bike. To her dismay, Sarah soon learns that she is a pawn in the power struggle between Emily's parents and that her real job is to get the anorexic girl to eat. Although Sarah doesn't effect a cure, by taking charge at a crucial moment she points the Friedmans in the right direction and-just as important-sees herself and her own parents in a new light. In a slangy, deadpan narrative spiced with astute observations of characters and scenery, Frank brings a fresh, funny and vibrant new voice to YA literature. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)