Like A Family Project (1988), a poignant first novel about an Australian family torn by the death of an unexpected but beloved late baby; unlike Ellis' beautifully structured book, however, this has the first novel's characteristic defect of introducing too many issues. At 13, Sam[antha] is at odds with most of her classmates (except for nice, fat Liz, who retails gruesome stories); impatient with chain-smoking, aspiring, author ""Mom"" and mom's bickering with easygoing Dad, who seems to, be the nurturing parent; missing Gran, who's just moved from Melbourne to New Mexico; and developing a special relationship with her English teacher, Greg, who recognizes her talent. Baby's arrival (in a detailed, explicit, beautifully written hospital scene) draws the nuclear family together; but his death a year later (Mom falls asleep and he drowns in the bathtub) causes tensions leading to Dad going off with a younger woman, Sam quarreling with Mom, being counseled by Greg, and eventually deciding to visit Gran for a year (despite Sam's new romance with Tony). All this is enough material for several books, though many of Pershall's characterizations are commendably vivid and distinctive. Flawed, then, but a promising first effort.