Haddix (Running Out of Time, 1995, not reviewed) surrounds Tish, 15, with overwhelming problems: an abusive father, a dysfunctional mother who designates her caretaker of a younger brother and then abandons them, marginal friends, a slimy employer, money troubles, and stealing. The oft-used journal-entry format takes a turn this time as an English class assignment that Tish can mark ""Don't Read,"" to protect her privacy. The more she pours her heart out in its pages, the more it stretches credibility that her teacher, Mrs. Dunphrey, is not reading the entries. In an entry marked ""Do Read,"" she details an imaginary portrait of a happy family and provides a painful contrast to her own life; it's a device that works well, even though Haddix doesn't make much use of it. As Tish bends over backwards to hold together what little family she has left, the number of difficulties she faces strains the story, but for the most part her resilience makes her a sympathetic character. The cream that rises to the top in this teen problem novel is Tish herself, a strong character with independence and grit.