Kirkus Star


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Dad is terminally ill, and Phillip's parents have left their midwestern farm and moved to New England. Now, Dad's hands grow soft while he watches TV; Mom is overprotective and has too little to do in a suburban house. Phillip's job at an animal hospital offers camaraderie, but not always comfort: together, he and the vets agonize over the pain that owners inflict on their pets and the deaths of discarded kittens. Feeling alienated at school, Phillip escapes to an abandoned house in the woods, to which he brings two rescued kittens. Though the school's best response is to wonder whether he's suicidal, Phillip does have supportive friends, especially nice Kris, in his class, and her sensible Aunt Mil. But his parents are so self-absorbed, and his own unrecognized grief for his father is so intense that Phillip is withdrawing not only from school but from other relationships. A turning point comes when his mother is called away, leaving Phillip in charge. At first his father's suddenly revealed craving to be alone feels like rejection, but it triggers some healthy realizations about how all the members of this nice but repressed family need to level with each other, reach out, and have something of value to do. Here, Haas--choosing telling words and incidents with unusual care--draws a perceptive portrait of a teenager of integrity, grappling with his parents' pain and his own. A fine performance, expanding on the concerns for animal rights and the characters introduced in The Sixth Sense (1988).

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1992
Page count: 182pp
Publisher: Greenwillow