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UNFINISHED PORTRAIT OF JESSICA by Richard Peck Kirkus Star

UNFINISHED PORTRAIT OF JESSICA

By Richard Peck

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0440218861
Publisher: Delacorte

In a season with two outstanding novels (both by women) hinging on failed mothers (Journey, p. 1013; Monkey Island, p. 857), another fine novel to right the balance: Jessica's charismatic dad is a childish, unproductive womanizer; her mother, whom she first presents as a nonentity, has blossomed by book's end into nurturer, role model, and friend. When her adored father leaves, Jessica--with the cruel single-mindedness of a 13-year-old--blames her mother, whom she describes as a colorless drudge. Dad, a photographer, had the exciting life; their elegant Chicago apartment is his family's home, the priceless portrait of grandmother Jessica, by Great- uncle Lucius, is his. In a beautifully crafted first chapter, Peck reveals Jessica's delusions about both parents; then he sends her to Acapulco to visit Dad and Lucius and to find out for herself how self-centered Dad is--he has even sold the portrait to philistines, as Jessica angrily reveals to Lucius, causing him to turn Dad out of his comfortable free quarters. Vision cleared, Jessica goes home to recognize her mother's worth (she's not only a mature person, perhaps a little too good to be true, but a well-known author). A dramatic final scene, years later, confirms the power of their bond. The exotic Mexican setting, the appealing young people Jessica finds there, Peck's perceptive reading of teenage concerns, and his well-deserved reputation are sure to draw readers. They won't be disappointed: this is one of his best. (Fiction. 12+)