WATERSHED by Elizabeth Harlan


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A dramatic story with an intriguing plot is marred by a tired style and stereotyped characters. Jeb, 17, has always struggled to keep up with the wild schemes concocted by his daring brother Noel, 16. But lately Noel's high spirits have turned to rebelliousness and anger, and Jeb feels a widening gulf between them. When Noel hatches a scheme to open the valve that controls the town water supply, Jeb says no. Undeterred, Noel goes ahead and is caught and sent to a detention center. Unable to face his sentence, he kills himself, leaving Jeb to deal with grief and guilt. The story ends on a positive note as Jeb prepares to enter Yale, excited by the future and ready to leave his sorrow behind. With the exception of Jeb, none of the characters comes to life in this grim novel. Noel is not sufficiently developed to make his suicide understandable. The style lacks freshness of language or structure. Heavy-handed symbolism about a cicada that is killed in its prime is spelled out--the author rather than the reader makes the connection. Characters and situations seem like reruns--e.g., the scene where Jeb and his girlfriend ""play house"" while her parents aren't home, ending up in her bedroom. Only the mildly steamy make-out scene that follows breaks new ground in adolescent fiction, as Jeb instructs her in manually bringing him to climax.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Page count: 163pp
Publisher: Viking