cover image Tightrope


Gillian Cross / Author Holiday House $16.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-

Impeccable plotting, a brisk narrative and complex characterizations make this latest from Cross (Wolf; Pictures in the Dark) a novel to read in a single sitting. Fiercely self-reliant Ashley is kept far too busy caring for her sick mother to bother with the more ordinary forms of teenage rebellion that abound in her seedy neighborhood. Her sole indulgence is graffiti--preferably in the most daring and difficult-to-reach locations possible. When she ""tags"" a store owned by an unpopular merchant and her browbeaten son, Ashley gains the notice of Eddie Beale, the charismatic gangster who--with the help of his fire-eating girlfriend and a crew of sidekicks--runs the area as if it were his private three-ring circus. Befriended, or so it seems, by this group of urban saltimbanques, Ashley's tightly wound existence begins to expand in new and unexpected ways. But Eddie is no Robin Hood, and beneath his ringmaster's dazzle lies a ruthless agenda. As Eddie's schemes fall into place, loner Ashley is forced to reach beyond her brittle independence and seek help from unexpected sources. The circus motif that runs throughout lends a shimmering touch of magical realism to this gritty urban tale. In the end, it is as much Ashley's emotional evolution as the more conventional elements of suspense that makes this story so engrossing. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)