cover image Dumb Love

Dumb Love

Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson, . . Roaring Brook/Brodie, $16.95 (163pp) ISBN 978-1-59643-062-4

As in her The Parallel Universe of Liars , Johnson again creates a cozy world of offbeat characters, including a pleasingly plump star, with humor at the forefront. Carlotta, a blustery young woman of "blessed flesh," recently moved to a small mountain town with her mother and her mother's boyfriend, Franklin Thomas. They are attempting to cure his alcoholism with "fresh, clean mountain air." When her mother goes on a business trip, Carlotta fears she is reconnecting with the girl's real father. Meanwhile, Carlotta schemes to win cute Pete (since he's Italian, she decides that "lov[ing] large women" is in his genes). The story culminates in a hilarious group date, which includes a dog, a bag of mail for an advice columnist and Franklin Thomas as chaperone. During the date, Carlotta finally realizes who she really is meant to be with; she also learns that her family is "turning out okay—with absolutely no help from her." The dialogue between teen characters is a bit sketchy, and readers may wish there was more about Carlotta's new job assisting the local advice columnist (with a secret identity hinted at early in the novel). But they will take a shine to these characters, particularly sweet and charmingly eccentric Franklin Thomas, who calls Carlotta his "daughter-of-heart." In the end, this is a small-town story big on funny moments, details and big-hearted characters. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)