LOSING LOUISA

A tough, persuasive examination of the devastating effects of divorce on the members of what appeared to be a strong, solid family. When Michael Levine divorces Lacey and Rosie’s mother, each of those left behind retreats into her own protective shell. Ma takes up with a bodybuilder named Vinnie; Rosie’smart, pretty, and talented—finds solace in an increasingly physical relationship with her boyfriend, Joey; Lacey, feeling deserted and alone, moons over self-centered, wise-cracking David. Just after Lacey discovers her sister and Joey having intercourse in the Levine basement, Rosie learns that she is pregnant; the family has to support Rosie as she decides whether to have the baby or to have an abortion. Ultimately Rosie decides to have her baby and to give it up for adoption, with a hope that she will somehow remain part of its life. Caseley (Jorah’s Journal, 1998, etc.) leaves the meaning of the title ambiguous, and allows the story, at times, to be realistically depressing in its portrait of a family trapped in pain. Only when Michael Levine—offstage most of the book—reappears does the family reconfigure itself and find a way to move forward. In the end, readers know that the Levines will survive, and that Lacey, a particularly memorable character, will be there for them. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: March 24, 1999

ISBN: 0-374-34665-8

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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GETTING NEAR TO BABY

Couloumbis’s debut carries a family through early stages of grief with grace, sensitivity, and a healthy dose of laughter. In the wake of Baby’s sudden death, the three Deans remaining put up no resistance when Aunt Patty swoops in to take away 12-year-old Willa Jo and suddenly, stubbornly mute JoAnn, called “Little Sister,” in the misguided belief that their mother needs time alone. Well-meaning but far too accustomed to getting her way, Aunt Patty buys the children unwanted new clothes, enrolls them in a Bible day camp for one disastrous day, and even tries to line up friends for them. While politely tolerating her hovering, the two inseparable sisters find their own path, hooking up with a fearless, wonderfully plainspoken teenaged neighbor and her dirt-loving brothers, then, acting on an obscure but ultimately healing impulse, climbing out onto the roof to get a bit closer to Heaven, and Baby. Willa Jo tells the tale in a nonlinear, back-and-forth fashion that not only prepares readers emotionally for her heartrending account of Baby’s death, but also artfully illuminates each character’s depths and foibles; the loving relationship between Patty and her wiser husband Hob is just as complex and clearly drawn as that of Willa Jo and Little Sister. Lightening the tone by poking gentle fun at Patty and some of her small-town neighbors, the author creates a cast founded on likable, real-seeming people who grow and change in response to tragedy. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23389-X

Page Count: 211

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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THE YEAR THEY BURNED THE BOOKS

Garden (Good Moon Rising, 1996, etc.) returns to territory she’s staked out in previous novels for this drawn-out tale of gay teenagers caught in a small town conservative backlash. As Jamie watches her long-time friend Terry move into a relationship that is effectively pulling him out of the closet, she develops a powerful yen for straight-but-accepting newcomer Tessa. Meanwhile, backed by a shadowy national organization, community activist Lisa Buel gets herself elected to the school board and immediately launches a campaign against the new sex-ed curriculum, the availability of condoms at the high school, and the liberal stance of the school’s paper, of which Jamie is editor-in-chief. The cast is composed of types, modeling behavior and expressing a range of attitudes; with frequent stops for newspaper editorials, prolonged conversations, and indignant speeches, the plot moves past various confrontations, a book-burning, hate mail, and a near- riot at school to an eventual uneasy peace. By the end, the gay teens have earned a measure of acceptance and Buel is handily defeated in a follow-up election, but the school newspaper is shut down for the year, and all health classes are turned—temporarily—into study halls. Garden makes a game if unsuccessful effort to create an evenhanded liberal/conservative dialogue, but the characters’ mercurial love lives and their searches for identity will provide the book’s chief draws. (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 1999

ISBN: 0-374-38667-6

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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