Not a novel; just vignettes, some more self-consciously poetic or fable-like than others (one is dedicated to Italo Calvino)--all about French schoolgirls on the near and far sides of puberty. Small sisters Madeleine and Thâ€šrâ‰¤se are numbly transformed by the death of their widowed mother (""Are we widows now, too?""). Clementine desperately wants to grow up (""Being old is to have boots and being able to hide your socks inside them"") and vows: ""I'll keep walking. . . until I've grown breasts."" Adeline ""hollers to love"" in the woods and docilely removes her underpants so that a small, surly boy can inspect her for the much-awaited arrival of pubic hair. Sophie--perfect and beautiful--makes a great ceremony of choosing who'll be her best friend. Fat Josiane, condemned by the family doctor to a diet, feeds her friends a grossly varied tea party for the vicarious pleasure of it. Maline suddenly is unable to pronounce the vowel o; explanation--""I don't want to live all of death with a mouth like a hen's ass."" First brassieres, religious hysteria, brooding on death--for Fournel, ""the same air as we do"" seems mostly to mean the dark, foul, neurotic air. And this small book does have moments of psychological acuity along with stretches of resonant, brittle, well-translated prose. But it remains an odd, narrow exercise--significant only as a minor-key promise of things to come from this young French writer.