CROOKED by Laura McNeal


Age Range: 12 - 15
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PLB 0-679-99300-2 In a story that sprawls over the thematic landscape, two teenagers are shaken by sudden family losses and menaced by a pair of genuinely scary hoodlums as they fumble their way toward intimacy. Despite all hints, Amos is surprised when his father dies of stomach cancer; meanwhile, his classmate Clara watches as her parents separate and her mother takes a teaching job overseas. Enter bad-news siblings Charles and Eddie Tripp; when Amos witnesses them vandalizing mailboxes, Charles lays him out with a baseball bat, then mounts a clever campaign of terror to ensure his silence. Coached by his sinister older brother, Eddie begins stalking Clara, with intentions that seem simultaneously leering and romantic. Other than one friend, Bruce, whose presence is an obvious attempt at comic relief, Amos and Clara are otherwise surrounded by oblivious, ineffectual, or malicious peers and adults. Although a series of missteps gives their budding romance an engaging coltishness, there is so much anger, fear, and grief here, as well as brutality and betrayal, that the story can be deadening. Switching point-of-view from Amos to Clara in alternating chapters, the McNeals (The Dog Who Lost His Bob, 1996) drive their cast to a contrived but terrifying attempted rape, then end on a sour note, with a flat Thanksgiving and the news that Charles is back in juvie—-but only for a few months. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-679-89300-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1999