CARIBOU by Meg Wolitzer


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In 1970, Becca Silverman is twelve--but her brother Stevie is 19, not in college (he's the lead singer for a rock band), and therefore eminently draftable. . . especially when his birthdate comes up first in the Vietnam-draft lottery. So Stevie decides to avoid the draft by going to Canada: his father is furious; his timid mother is outwardly dismayed, perhaps secretly relieved. But Becca, though miserable not to have Stevie around (particularly now that she's got pre-junior-high anxiety), is clearly supportive--writing Stevie letters, defending him to her father, hoping to visit Stevie in Montreal during the summer after sixth-grade graduation. Two things stand in Becca's way, however. First she has to get the money for the trip by winning the school's $100 mural contest--which, being a super-talented artist, she does. (In actually painting the mural, Becca changes the design to include peace symbols instead of US flags--earning an official reprimand but some popular support.) The next step--convincing her father to let her go to Montreal alone for a week's stay--is more difficult. Still, with continued pressure, Becca succeeds. And though the briefly summarized trip involves some grubby surprises (Stevie smokes pot), Becca returns in good spirits: hers is ""a disappointing family in a way,"" with dogmatic Dad and ""faraway"" Mom--but Stevie is still ""my favorite person in the world,"" her best-friend Kate is closer than ever. . . and the prospect of junior-high now seems more exciting than scary. As with her adult novel, Sleepwalking (1982), Wolitzer's ideas in this first juvenile are better than the treatment: Becca's an undistinctive narrator-heroine; the 1970/Vietnam period isn't brought to life with any vigor or political textures; and details (like Stevie's rock band) are mentioned but left virtually undeveloped. Still--a pleasant, competent debut, with low-key handling of a premise that might easily have tilted into melodrama.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1984
Publisher: Greenwillow