I am an abused child, (but I can't tell you that),"" writes Julian Drew, 15, when his English teacher tells him to write the truest sentence he knows. Although he is physically unharmed -- except for being hungry most of the time -- Julian suffers extreme mental anguish in the Arizona home of his father and stepmother. They lock him in his room and give him a can to pee in; they intentionally feed him inedible food while his siblings -- full, half, and step -- get treats; when they all go out together, they lock him out of the house in the cold. They are so awful that Julian can't even write about it in his first notebook (NB), in which he addresses his deceased mother. Julian writes in code, using numbers, abbreviations, or Xs for unmentionable words. By the second notebook, Julian has improved. And by the third he writes in full sentences, describing how he ran away from his family back to his native West Virginia. He is now living there with Susan, a friend from Arizona who has also run away, as they try to restructure their sad lives. With an inventive vision, Deem (How To Read Your Mother's Mind, p. 302, etc.) presents a hard-edged tale of abuse and recovery.