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James enters his junior year of high school with two major interests in life: painting and Heather Nichols. It's the lure of the exotic: in a jock school, Heather is a Francophile who studies harpsichord and has quit cheerleaders. James began painting as a hobby, but he now looks at everything in terms of composition and color. His office-worker parents pressure him to think about college; his father says, ""No one can make money as an artist."" Inspired, James locates a picture of a $500 bill and sets to work. Meanwhile, he is obsessed with Heather, though she shows little interest in him. When, after weeks of work, the bill is done, James gets it changed; a bank officer sees through the forgery, but gives him the money anyway (suspend your disbelief). James then calls Heather and asks her to fly to Montreal with him for lunch. She accepts. After lunch, she tells him she's seeing someone else. Numb, he leaves her to find her own way to the airport, and we leave him in the Old City, sketching, having decided both to spend the night and to call his parents to tell them he isn't going to college. Whether he will is anybody's guess; this is told in the first-person, but James seldom shares his feelings or thoughts with readers. He isn't the only unpredictable character: as he is speaking to Heather for the first time, his best friend suddenly throws up on him, and at the sight of a mediocre report card, his father bursts into tears. James' sense of irony is well-developed, but he never laughs at himself; his relationship with his parents is based on easy lies; and at the end, he doesn't seem much different (though perhaps more self-centered) than he was at the beginning. As in his Caves of Snores and other picture books, Haseley has written an offbeat story with occasionally beautiful prose but clumsy and contrived humor and plotting.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Macmillan