ALT ED by Catherine Atkins


Age Range: 14 & up
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Atkins (When Jeff Comes Home, 2002) offers an anxious and tender story, excellently written on a theme of peer acceptance. Susan leads a tense and lonely daily existence. Her distant father has been especially absent since her mother died, and her brother is usually downright mean. Even more painful are daily harassments from Susan’s classmates (because she is fat) and anonymous, cruelly mocking phone calls. When Susan gets in trouble, she is placed in a “class” with five other students avoiding expulsion. Their lives turn out to be interwoven in more ways than is obvious, and because each character is written with subtle levels of complexity, what could have been a collection of stereotypes is instead a group of highly nuanced and thought-provoking individuals. Susan tentatively makes friends with Brendan, a gay boy who is also subject to peer torment, tries to figure out how to change her treatment at the hands of the world, and struggles to make emotional contact with her father. The only flaw: as Susan begins to show little sseedlings of confidence, she begins to lose weight, a stale and disheartening cultural stereotype. Otherwise, a complex and stellar work. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-399-23854-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2003


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