A pleasant, gentle coming-of-age story, set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Twelve-year-old Penny loves the small seaside town she lives in, but. it seems as though everything around her is changing. She's spent the summer helping Stella Mae, her sick mother, while her wealthier friends in the neighborhood have been away at camp. Penny envies their opportunities, and feels even worse when she discovers that Margaret, the new girl on the block, also enjoys a privileged way of life. Penny longs to be someone important, to rise out of her parents' world of the Washateria, $1.69 perfume, and True Romance magazine. She is dazzled by Margaret's lovely, cultured mother, with her microwave oven and Perrier, but gradually Penny discovers that things are not always as they seem, and that she, too, is privileged. The structure and style of this first novel need tightening, but characterization is good, and the atmosphere of the small coastal town is strongly evoked. The language faithfully captures the cadences of the picturesque speech of its characters, and the story unfolds with the languor of the small-town life it describes.