An otherwise routine problem novel is distinguished by its feisty heroine--whose occasional flashes of humor illuminate a healthy capacity for objective self-awareness. Sara Jo, 13, has reason to be angry: eight years ago, her alcoholic mother (Joleen) walked out, leaving her with her distant, judgmental father and his spinster sister--who is now thoroughly fed up with Sara Jo's adolescent behavior, which offends her New England sensibilities. Thus when Joleen invites Sara Jo to spend the summer on Long Island, where Joleen has a new husband and a two-year-old daughter, Aunt Mimi accepts and eagerly ships Sara Jo off, causing her to feel abandoned a second time. Later, a battle of wills ensues between Joleen--who seems to want instant intimacy--and Sara Jo--who fears another betrayal and seems to want no closeness at all. This attitude even intervenes when Katie, a ten-year-old neighbor, wants to make friends. Not until romance buds with L.T., a boy she meets near the end of the summer, can Sara Jo see herself as worthy of the family relationship she so desperately wants. Many of the characters here are not fully drawn; L.T., especially, emerges as merely an idealized figure. Still, the story is believable, involving, and entertainingly told.