WHAT'S IN A NAME? by Ellen Wittlinger


Age Range: 11 - 13
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In ten interrelated short stories, Wittlinger (Hard Love, p. 971, etc.) catches teenagers seeking self-identity in a small Massachusetts town that is engaged in a similar process. With the exception of O’Neill, who clicks into place when he allows himself to realize that he’s gay, the characters are defined by either their backgrounds, peer roles, or single parents: Ricardo is a puzzled, amused exchange student from Brazil; Nadia, a Russian immigrant in a self-imposed but increasingly fragile shell of isolation; Shaquanda buses in daily from her inner- city neighborhood; Quincy’s the jock; Adam, the new kid, etc. Wittlinger gives them touches of individuality, but they stay close to type, innocent of malice, sex, or (with the exception of Shaquanda) substance abuse—their idea of rebellion is picking an unexpected college—but they do all move in promising directions. The stories are linked by one pushy mother’s divisive campaign to change the town’s name from Scrub Harbor to the more gentrified Folly Bay, but Wittlinger, focused on her characters, allows that plot line to fizzle out. Although it’s low on surprises, this gallery of clean-cut high schoolers does offer a hopeful view of youth on the way to adulthood. (Short stories. 11-13)

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-689-82551-X
Page count: 146pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1999