Books by John Neufeld

THE HANDLE AND THE KEY by John Neufeld
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

Dan has been adopted into the Knox family, a time that should be filled with happiness, but the reality is that it's filled with confusion, jealousy, and outright hostility. Shuttled from one foster family to the next, Dan has spent most of his short life on the move. He was lucky enough to be adopted once, but his memories hint that it was a less than nurturing environment. Now that he has finally come to his new home, he is unsure of what he's supposed to do. He has no experience at playing, making him an outcast at recess, and his memories of abuse cause him to drift in and out of the present in school. He observes all that's around him with a detachment that seems to suggest that he has dealt with his fears by maintaining some distance from those in his life. Fragile and confused, Dan attempts to "learn the rules" from what he sees, but he reacts as if watching a play that he cannot completely comprehend. Luckily his new mother and father seem to have a great deal of experience with children both professionally, as psychologists, and personally, as parents of Mary Kate, their precocious and stubborn older daughter. Shy and troubled, Dan must find his role in this new life and learn to trust the people in his new family. Thoughtful and honest, Neufeld, author of the classics Lisa Bright and Dark (1969) and Edgar Allen (1968), uses a fascinating perspective to explore the challenges associated with adopting an older child and the effects that it may have on the children already in the family. Unsettling and memorable. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
BOYS LIE by John Neufeld
Released: April 1, 1999

Despite an obvious agenda, this probing study of an eighth grader's battle with terror and frustration will hit readers close to home. The traumatized victim of a group grope at a New York swimming pool, Gina has moved with her mother to Santa Barbara, hoping to fit unobtrusively into a new school, a new life. It's not to be: not only does word of the assault get out (and, as usual, "assault" is immediately accepted as a euphemism for "rape"), it combines with her unusually early physical development to make her a target of knowing looks and invidious rumors. Feeling powerless to set the record straight, Gina attempts to wait the gossip out. Neufeld (Gaps in Stone Walls, 1996, etc.) switches between Gina's struggle to pin down why boys misread her so completely, and the schemes of a trio of trash-talking classmates to rape her; while the frequently shifting points of view make it hard to keep characters straight, the author puts words in their mouths and thoughts in their heads that will make many readers nod—or squirm—in recognition. In the end, one boy makes the attempt alone, Gina fights him off, and when he swaggers into school claiming to have scored, she launches a devastating counterattack by standing up in class and describing what happened in precise detail. The story may be issue-heavy, but everyone displays conflicting emotions, and both good judgment and bad. (Fiction. 12-14) Read full book review >
GAPS IN STONE WALLS by John Neufeld
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 1996

An often enthralling, not entirely satisfying, mystery, set in Martha's Vineyard in 1880, a closed community where deafness is commonplace. Neufeld (Almost a Hero, 1995, etc.) never closes the credibility gaps in this story of an unlikely murder suspect. Readers meet Merry Skiffe, 12, on the run after learning that she's one of only four people on the island without an alibi at the time of the murder of Ned Nickerson, a dishonest, dissolute man who is hated by all. Merry's extreme fear of the law is supposedly explained by her having once rebuffed Nickerson's improper advances, but that's hardly reason enough for others to believe her capable of murder. The revelation of the real culprit—who's about to elope with Merry's deaf cousin—may come as a surprise to some, but the readers who will like this best will be those with an interest in Martha's Vineyard and the historical details Neufeld deftly works into the plot. (bibliograpy) (Fiction. 10-14) Read full book review >
ALMOST A HERO by John Neufeld
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 1995

Ben Derby's spring vacation is preempted by a class assignment requiring students to help out in one of various social agencies. Ben, who is fond of children, decides on a daycare center for the homeless. There he meets brooding Wendell, withdrawn Stephanie, and others, but the child who steals his heart is sturdy, cheerful Batista. When Ben sees him apparently the victim of domestic violence, he tells the authorities, and then enlists the help of his friends in a ridiculous plot to kidnap him. It fails, and Ben learns that Batista's family is a warm and loving one. There are also subplots, melodramatic and mostly unresolved. Neufeld built his reputation on the strength of Edgar Allan (1969) and Lisa Bright and Dark (1970). This time out he provides more tract than novel, with a fairly preposterous plot, a lot of loose ends, weak characterization, and more than one message with a capital M. (Fiction. 9-14) Read full book review >