THE BOY IN THE OFF-WHITE HAT by Lynn Hall

THE BOY IN THE OFF-WHITE HAT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Child sexual abuse--with a smidgin of Hall's usual horse interest. This can be regarded either as bald exploitation of a hot topic, or as one more means of acquainting kids with the problem: the story is tacky but serviceable; the concluding analysis, put in the mouth of a social worker, is OK on its own, limited terms. Hall's narrator (not a bad choice) is 13-year-old horse enthusiast Skeeter Long (f.), who's taken a summer job as mother's helper to Okay Corral's burly, unmotherly proprietor Maxine Long. Skeeter's charge, undersize nine-year-old Shane, is pitifully eager for attention--which is immediately forthcoming from Burge Franklin, a newcomer met at the town dump whom Skeeter dislikes and mistrusts. (Readers will be way ahead of her.) Burge ingratiates himself with Maxine, who sees him as a prospective husband/father; he plays up to Shane's weaknesses. Then, returning from a fishing trip with Burge, Shane throws away the hat Burge gave him, changes his jeans, sits staring: ""It went beyond scared or guilty, although they were in it too. It was more like. . . shock."" When will Skeeter wise up? Not until Shane, traumatized at the prospect of Burge's moving in, assumes a double personality, and tells her. How will Maxine react? She's ready to kill Burge. When the social worker brings Shane home from some therapy, he explains how Burge (a convicted child-molestor) intimidated Shane, and Shane's fears of being rejected, even of being rejected for Burge. All this has been handled more searchingly by the media; the one plus (apart from the absence of sensationalism) is Skeeter's concern and obtuseness--a goad to readers to get-with-it themselves.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1984
Publisher: Scribners