JUST AS LONG AS WE'RE TOGETHER
The popular author returns to the junior-high age with an episodic story about a three-way friendship during a seventh-grade year. Tall, super-bright Rachel and narrator Stephanie have been best friends forever. When diminutive Alison--a Vietnamese adoptee whose mother is a well-known TV star--moves to their neighborhood, she easily joins their circle; Alison's unassuming charm makes her everyone's favorite, and her family is pleasantly ordinary. Meanwhile, Stephanie is beset by various pressures: Rachel neglects to tell her that she's been transferred to an accelerated math class; more important, Dad is "away on business" for months. When it turns out at Thanksgiving that her parents are trying a separation, it is a total surprise to Stephanie, partly because of her self-absorption, partly because her parents have dropped astonishingly few hints. Stephanie's angry response includes a food binge; the resulting fat complicates possible friendships with boys, who are just starting to be more interesting. Come spring, Stephanie begins to accept her parents' wish to live apart; a quarrel with Rachel, the inevitable consequence of the year's tensions and jealousies, is sorted out; and she loses weight. Blume still excels at assembling the minutiae and concerns of today's young with a humorous style and enough insight to win her readers. Devotees will set themselves a valuable precedent by reading a book of this length. Light; sure to please.