In this empathetic portrait of a troubled teenager, Anderson (Going Through the Gate, 1997) makes ordinary problems weigh as heavily on readers as they do on the heroine. Susanna feels friendless and bereft after her only friend callously dumps her, her football-hero brother grows aloof, and her teacher makes debilitating comments about her art portfolio. In her Uncle Louie, who has cloistered himself away from the world for 20 years, Susanna thinks she has found a kindred spirit. Louie, who is descending into senility, is more than she can handle, and the path out of her isolation lies instead in Susanna's friendship with Melody, an overweight, acerbic neighbor who is verbally abused by her father. Susanna's melancholia, artistic vision, and detachment are portrayed with a disarming combination of delicacy and power. The reasons behind Uncle Louie's retreat from the world are all but palpable, as is the rough charm of Melody and her sanguine younger sister, April.