cover image LITTLE CHICAGO


Adam Rapp, Author, Handprint, Author . Front Street $16.95 (2

Rapp (The Copper Elephant; The Buffalo Tree) turns in his bleakest work yet with this abandon-all-hope story of an 11-year-old victim of sexual abuse and neglect. Blacky Brown, the narrator, is first met as he flees, naked, from the home of his mother's boyfriend in the middle of the night. Blacky does everything right: he asks his older sister for help (his single mother is at work), and when she and a friend take him to the hospital, he tells the social worker from Children's Services about the boyfriend's abuses. At school he reaches out to his best (and only) friend. But Rapp knocks out every apparent support. Blacky's mother wants to keep seeing her boyfriend and seems repulsed by Blacky; the social worker doesn't follow up; the erstwhile friend tells all the kids at school, who taunt him. When Blacky befriends the other school pariah, who encourages Blacky to resist the bullying, she becomes the victim of a prank so brutal that she is last seen unconscious, lying on a stretcher. After several more traumas, the conclusion leaves Blacky to a grim fate. The unrelenting darkness, which may seem brave or honest to teen readers, loses some of its authenticity in Blacky's delivery; although it generally reflects Blacky's naïveté and slow-wittedness as well as his shock, it also contains metaphors and vocabulary that, more sophisticated than the messenger, reveal the hand of the author at work. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)