GIRLS IN PERIL by Karen Lee Boren


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Five neighborhood girlfriends teeter on the precipice of pubescence one fateful summer.

Stirrings of change that whisper through a small lakeside Wisconsin town one long, hot August shortly after the end of the Vietnam War go unnoticed by Lauren, Donna, Jeanne, Corrine and Stacey. All they foresee is more of the same long days of play they enjoyed in summers past: four square, statues, red rover and other games of their own invention. The favorite of the group is Jeanne Macek, whose birth defect—a sixth digit on her left hand—is their mascot. They kiss and pet it; they accommodate it (tying a loop at the end of a jump rope so Jeanne can join in—and beat them!—in competitions of double-Dutch); and they share Jeanne’s outrage when her mother insists mid-summer that a surgeon finally lop it off. Jeanne’s return to their clique with a bandaged hand and a bad mood presages other trouble: Jeanne’s oldest brother, a hothead with a reputation for violence, is arrested for pot-smoking; his girlfriend, who lives across the street, breaks off their relationship; Lauren, perhaps sensing a vacuum at the center of the group, begins to challenge Jeanne; and the girls’ traditional late night escapades—sneaking out of their houses and running down to the lake—become complicated by the presence of beer and boys. Eventually Jeanne’s mother, frightened by the trouble brewing with her oldest son, severs Jeanne from her pack, occupying her daughter with a long-list of one-handed chores around the house while she heals after her surgery. The remaining four, unmoored by Jeanne’s absence, begin to individuate, hesitantly acknowledging the maturation of their bodies and their changing passions. When tragedy inevitably strikes, the formerly close-knit group is irrevocably split. First-time novelist Boren uses a first-person plural voice to tell her taut coming-of-age tale, one marred by obvious symbolism and portentous passages.

A well-written work that tries too hard.

Pub Date: June 9th, 2006
ISBN: 0-9773127-2-0
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Tin House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2006