HIM SHE LOVES? by M. E. Kerr
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My daughter,"" says famous comedian Al Kiss on national TV, is dating ""a young German storm trooper with ears so big he could pick up cable TV."" Furthermore, ""Heinrich. . . goes in an elevator, pushes the buttons, and looks for gum. . . . Him she loves?"" Imagine the humiliation, then, of 17-year-old narrator Henry Schiller--the jug-eared, not-very-bright lad of German descent who is indeed madly in love with Al Kiss' gorgeous daughter Valerie. It's one thing for Al to throw Henry out of the Kissenweiser's Long Island home, to forbid Valerie to date him--which Al does when he catches the couple in Valerie's bedroom. But to humiliate ""Heinrich"" almost weekly, coast-to-coast?! It's enough to make a lesser kid slink off into hiding--especially considering the fact that Henry has other pressures to deal with, too: helping out at the German-style restaurant just opened by his widowed mother and boorish older brothers; or getting through his junior year at a new high-school (Valerie's a senior there), required to impersonate a pregnant woman in ""Health and Human Relations"" class. Still, Henry vows to fight for Valerie. He meets her in secret for tasteful (implied) sexual interludes; he follows her obsessively, with lighthearted echoes Of Scott Spencer's Endless Love in Henry's slightly cautious grandstanding. (""'I don't care if we die!' I said, a little concerned about her driving."") Furthermore, to change Al Kiss' attitude, Henry concocts an offbeat PR campaign that transforms Al's career. And if this media-blitz isn't entirely convincing, it sets up Kerr's niftiest shift here: the growing camaraderie between bigot Al (""He's Boche, honeybunch"") and fatherless Henry--in parallel with Valerie's rather shrill withdrawal. (""Since Daddy went to work on you, you've become a lousy lover, too, Henry Schiller!"") Kerr, an old-hand with turned-around stereotypes, doesn't turn them around quite enough here: some Jewish (and possibly some German-American) readers may be offended. But her double-edged satire is a rare commodity, her supporting cast is a droll-yet-credible assortment, and Al's cruel Heinrich routines--with reactions from Heinrich and family--become laugh-out-loud gems of comic embarrassment.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1984
Publisher: Harper & Row