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Dad has promised Mom that they'll soon see the last of the somber, confining hills of southern Indiana, scene of The Dark Didn't Catch Me (1975); but on the way to his new job in the next county, the Robinsons' borrowed truck breaks down--and another beckoning, forbidding situation looms. For twelve-year-old Seely, there's the companionship of 15-year-old buddies Johnny Meaders and Byron Tyson--and the threat of the dim-witted, malicious Fender twins, who have it in for all the Meaders (Jake Meaders once called them, accurately, bastards) and might do anything to Seely to get back at Johnny. But watching out for her is reclusive Nellie Fender, gotten ""in the family way"" by her uncle when ""I wasn't much bigger than you are now."" Seely is also at an age, however, ""when a girl wants to know everything it has taken her mother forty years to find out about,"" as Linzy Meaders (mother of Johnny, wife of Jake) points out to Mom. And even more than The Dark Didn't Catch Me, this is about the secrets of grown-ups--Mom and Dad's bitter flare-ups and quiet reconciliations, Mom's hostility to the local Holy Rollers (and her neighborly about-face); Jake Meaders' obstreperousness and Linzy's docility and what happens when blowhard Jake and Seely's stern, taciturn dad have to share a house. None of this develops in any foreseeable way, which is both the book's weakness (for kids who want tight, fast-paced fiction) and its strength. At the last Johnny dies at the hands of the Fenders; and the title notwithstanding, the dark does seem to be closing in. But there's Nellie Fender, now also bereft, to be cared for, Byron reminds Seely--and one awaits the succeeding volume that the situation and Seely's (the author's?) first-person involvement seem to promise.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1979
Publisher: Atheneum (Margaret K. McElderry)