ACTING NORMAL by Julia Hoban


Age Range: 12 - 15
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Hoban (Buzby, 1990, etc.) creates her first novel from the contemporary headline issue of repressed memory. After years of attending a special school while modeling for TV commercials, Stephanie, 18, is in a regular high school, where her attempt to fit in is aided by her new friend, Dahlia. Stephanie harbors a haunting secret, repeatedly alluded to throughout the first half of the novel: In a series of flashbacks from Stephanie’s acting classes, the sense-memory method unearths a painful memory from when she was five and was burned on her arm by her nanny—“She was the voice, she was holding my arm against the radiator because I didn’t want to do what she wanted.” Given abundant clues describing nebulous fears or terrors that lurk around every corner, readers will be anticipating the abuse long before the secret is revealed. The adults in this talk-laden story, a psychiatrist and an acting teacher, prattle on with standard responses, and the parents are nothing more than props. Some implausible moments rely on coincidence—a bus happens to break down, causing friend Dahlia to try to hitchhike, leading to an assault on her by a truck driver—but result in the catharsis through which Stephanie recognizes that what happened to her was not her fault. A familiar, unembellished first-person narration makes this a comfortable read for its audience, and Stephanie is worthy of compassion in her efforts to heal an old injury. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 31st, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-023519-5
Page count: 206pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998