Cecelia Maloney (“Cece…rhymes with peace”), 14, lives in Newark, N.J., in 1938 above Loomis Hardware and below the Loomis family. Her adored Pop is a radio sound-effects man, and she wants nothing more than to be in radio, too.
Although she cons Pop into signing her working papers, she finds herself lying to her Ma and practicing deception at an ever-increasing level. She sneaks into New York City, talks her way into a Saturday copy girl’s job at Columbia, meets glamorous radio folk like Orson Welles (on whom she has a huge crush), and narrates it all in her starry-eyed, Depression-era teen voice. Cece is certain of her impending radio stardom and so completely misses her mother’s worry, her father’s erratic behavior and their poverty. First novelist Brendler has worked extremely hard at getting the setting, slang and tone of the late 1930s, but her characterizations are disappointingly one-note. Cece’s Ma is long-suffering, her best friend is a boy-chaser, an aspiring young reporter who befriends Cece is earnest; Cece's note is that she is completely self-involved and naïve as heck. The climax utilizes Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast to unravel all the secrets and lies.
Despite intimations of drunkenness, adultery and the coming war, Cece is as wholesome as a glass of milk, if as oblivious and self-centered as any teen then or now. (Historical fiction. 10-14)