cover image Tango's Baby

Tango's Baby

Martin Waddell. Candlewick Press (MA), $16.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-1-56402-615-6

Though he's often on the wrong side of the law, Tango, the ``no-hoper'' British teenager at the center of Waddell's (Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?) ponderous novel, is clearly not a bad boy. He is devoted to his invalid grandmother and to 15-year-old Crystal. When Tango comforts her after her father's death, a relationship develops rather quickly and soon Crystal is pregnant. Worked into the tale of Tango's intense, ultimately destructive love for the girl and their child are a handful of realistic if largely depressing characters, including Crystal's violent, alcoholic brother and her disheartened mother, all of them conversant in the ways of the British welfare system. Told from the perspective of a former schoolmate of Tango, the narrative collects bits of conjecture and recollections from several other friends of the couple and from Crystal. The result is an oddly distant, choppy story that-with its blunt material and abundant British colloquialisms-is more suitable for adults than for the targeted audience. Ages 14-17. (Oct.)