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by Sherry Garland

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-15-200661-3
Publisher: Harcourt

 In a clumsy take on a well-used premise (see also the review of Winifred Morris's Liar, below), an at-risk city teenager is sent to his country relatives for attitude correction. To get Taylor away from bad friends, his mother dispatches him to the mountain home of his great-aunt and great-uncle near tiny Pandora, Texas. Although he carries a switchblade and shoplifts, Taylor makes an unconvincing juvie-in-training; despite failing English, he sends off long, glib letters to his friends--and vicious hate mail to his mother--describing how stupid and boring everything is, meanwhile pitching in with a will at the local grist mill and general store. He spends most of his wages on gifts for the children of an abusive, itinerant ``post-cutter'' and tree-poacher, teaching them to read in exchange for shooting lessons from the eldest of them, Jesse Lee. In a lachrymose climax, Taylor's mother shows up and confesses that she shot his father in a hunting accident, and Taylor owns up to a prank that left its victim in a coma. Garland (Cabin 102, 1995, etc.) only outlines the ending: Taylor is sentenced to a term of community service in a teen literacy center, spends his spare time at his victim's bedside, and gets an uplifting letter from Jesse Lee. An intriguing supporting cast goes to waste in a weak, uneven story. (Fiction. 11-13)