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by M.E. Kerr

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-06-075682-9
Publisher: HarperCollins

A broad-ranging, somewhat unfocused novel on a worthy topic—how small errors in judgment can snowball to disaster—by a YA master. Jessie Myrer, daughter of a small-town New York prison warden, is an outcast; her older brother ignores her, her mother dislikes her and J.J. Joy and the local in-girls think she’s tacky. When Elisa, a German whose father teaches at Cornell, comes to town, Jessie finds happiness in their friendship despite both their mothers’ disapproval of foreigners. Together the girls conceive a temporary crush on Slater Carr, a prisoner lifer and gifted musician, whom Jessie’s father allows special privileges. Carr escapes and accidentally kills J.J.’s father (just as he, ruined by the Depression, was about to commit suicide), which prompts Elisa’s family to return to Hitler’s Germany. The complicated plot swerves wildly; so many pieces converge that some feel fragmentary. Written predominantly from Jessie’s point-of-view, the story switches to a third-person review of Slater’s life, letters to Slater from an old friend, and then, in Part Two, letters back and forth from Germany. Finding a cohesive single voice to tell this story wouldn’t have been easy, but would have made its impact stronger. (Fiction. 12+)