NORTH by Alan Zweibel

NORTH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this strained, cutesy/creepy little fantasy, North is a nine-year-old boy who--despite all sorts of achievements--feels ignored by his self-involved parents, preoccupied with their work and their bowel movements. ""Did they ask the gardener to reshape the hedges into evergreen icons of this heroic lad? No! And did they hire a voice coach to teach them how to sing a hymn that praises him? Are you kidding? North was lucky if he made it through dinner in one piece."" So, with legal help from Jacoby & Belt, North has himself declared a ""free agent""--and, now famous, he sets off to entertain bids from new would-be parents all over America. The Texas couple is grandiosely generous--but they're looking for a replacement for a dead son. The Hawaiian couple just want to use North to ""validate their existence."" The Eskimo folks might abandon North onto an ice-floe if he becomes weak or injured. (""Hey, did the Dodgers shoot Campy after the accident? No!"") The urban folks are too strict. The L.A. folks--the only amusing, if obvious caricature--are too un-strict. (""Here are some chains--go trash your school."") The midwestern dairy folks smell bad. (""I want folks who need a son, not a hosedown."") The Amish folks want to punish North for his sins. For a while, then, instead of choosing new parents, North hangs around with pathetic stand-up comic Joey Fingers--joining him on a trip to the ""Old Country,"" where Joey expires. Meanwhile, in his absence, America has had a North-inspired children's revolution--with North's parents scheduled to be the first symbolic victims of public hanging. And so North returns, works the crowd (with techniques from old Joey), saves his folks and returns to them--wondering if they ""really learned something from all this."" Zweibel, a TV-comedy writer, does come up with a funny line here and there. (The national anthem of the kids' new revolutionary government is ""Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard."") But this is a confused, vaguely unpleasant variation on the classic juvenile I-Want-New-Parents fantasy--with, instead of charm or point, an effortful hip-ness that's unlikely to engage most children or adults.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1984
Publisher: Villard/Random House