WHEN THE PHONE RANG by Harry Mazer

WHEN THE PHONE RANG

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In what is, these days, a not-so-outlandish turn of events, 16-year-old Billy Keller learns in a phone call that his parents have been killed in a plane crash, leaving him, his brother and his sister orphaned. Mazer, a critically acclaimed YA author, then examines the effects (emotional and practical) on the Keller children. While the death of parents and the struggle of children without parents are not uncommon themes in novels for teens, Mazer's solution to the Kellers' situation is unusual. Faced with the dissolution of the remaining family unit--oldest son Kevin to return to college, Billy and 12-year-old Lori to go to various relatives--the children decide to stay together. Kevin drops out of college to live with Billy and Loft; and as the three grope their way through the next months, they grieve, make mistakes, and get into minor trouble, but by the time summer arrives, they know they can make it. They are the survivors. Mazer, competently handling a devastating subject, has written a story that combines believable pathos with humor, touching detail, and enough kid appeal (despite his grief, Billy discovers an inexplicable interest in girls) to create a page-turner that is not a tear-jerker. In fact, perhaps the book's one flaw is that too little attention is paid to the emotional readjustment of Billy and his siblings. But Billy is an appealing character whom the reader is behind all the way--and nobody is more relieved than the reader when the Keller kids emerge intact and optimistic.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Scholastic