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Living in a thoroughly dysfunctional family, with an alcoholic father and an enabling mother, Harley Columba feels and hopes that she is adopted. Researching her birth certificate, she finds discrepancies that start her on a path to finding her birth father. An old yearbook, a toy clown, and a handwritten note in the attic point to a high school beau of her mother's, Sean Shanahan. Harley's search for some sort of relief from her abusive father and her helpless mother lead her through some experimenting with the wild kids in school, getting her deeper in trouble at home. Finally, she lights out for New York City, confronts Sean, and hears the unvarnished truth. Still as irresponsible as ever, Sean admits that he has sired two children out of wedlock: Harley and her best friend, Carla. The sub-plot, which hints at Harley's artistic abilities, is nearly drowned out by the senseless comments and violence of her abusive stepfather, which caused her to seek refuge, starting from the first page. But it is clear that her art comes from the father who left her behind. Returning home, Harley and her parents make a small step toward peace. But this ending seems tacked on and the stepfather's shift in attitude hard to believe. It is only the author's facility with words that saves this from becoming soap opera of the first order and it might have succeeded better had the narration not been in the first person. An okay first novel, with a promise of better to come. (Fiction. YA)

ISBN: 030748582X
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Winslow