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CRUSADER by Edward Bloor

CRUSADER

By Edward Bloor

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-15-201944-8
Publisher: Harcourt

A stagnant shopping mall in South Florida is a crowded center stage for this large-canvas story from Bloor (Tangerine, 1997), who weaves labyrinthine plot strands, from politics and the power of the media to alienation and personal redemption, while an exploration of racism hovers in the background. Smart, Seuss-spouting Roberta, 15, is capable and knowing beyond her years, raising herself on boxes of macaroni, neglected by a father whose presence is primarily the stack of rented videos he leaves for her on the counter. Her only family is the drunken uncle (in fact, most of the adults are bad guys, drunks, liars—even murderers) she works for at the failing virtual reality video arcade, and his troubled children. As the story unfolds, remarkably resilient Roberta comes closer to solving the riddle of her mother’s murder seven years ago; the solution hits close to home, and is only one among plot strands vying for attention as Roberta schools herself to become a reporter, conducts her own surveillance of local hate crimes, faces the death of a friend and an elderly guardian, saves the mall from bankruptcy, and inherits a Hallmark store. Roberta’s transformation from androgenous geek to self-sufficient, truth-seeking heroine is believable throughout, and, despite an overdose of detail, readers will be patient with a cast of characters for whom a bout of chicken pox is revelatory and a near-death in a freezer is life-affirming. Roberta emerges from her war a contemporary crusader, strong and whole and sure. (Fiction. 13-15)