A SEASON OF SECRETS by Alison Cragin & Jane Lawrence Mali Herzig


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The subject of this undramatic, oddly textured novel is 14-year-old Brooke's concern for her six-year-old brother Benji, who has just fainted in class when the story opens and is revealed toward the end (the clues are there all along) to have epilepsy. When the secret does come out, the parents and others explain, even belittle, the condition and debunk common misconceptions (""the worst thing about epilepsy is the way it looks"")--but this isn't one of those thin problem stories of obvious therapeutic-educational design. Near the start, the family notices that the vacant old house next door has been sold--to a man, the realtor tells them, who visited it only at night and inspected only the old bat-filled barn--but the mystery this suggests never develops either, and except for Benji, whose encounters are all offstage, the family never meets the new neighbor. Instead Brooke, who worries about skinny, untanned Benji spending most of the summer in his room and his parents allowing him to cio so, learns his secret: He is keeping a pet bat in his room and has become friendly with the neighbor, a government scientist doing bat research. Benji is a precocious, science-oriented six-year-old and, blessedly, unlike other precocious little brothers in juvenile fiction, he is never so described but does convincingly act the part. Also, as Brooke recognizes, his preoccupation with his bat project functions partly as a retreat from the world, because he and his overprotective parents fear public reaction to his condition. The story is slow moving and a little claustrophobic; but you don't question why the authors spend so much time with Benji's bat or the visitors in the family kitchen, because the answer seems obvious: This is just the way it all happened, that summer of Benji's confinement.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Little, Brown