CHEERLEADERS CAN'T AFFORD TO BE NICE by Susan Sullivan Saiter

CHEERLEADERS CAN'T AFFORD TO BE NICE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A fluid--but ultimately unconvincing--first novel about a dysfunctional family who tries to claw its way to the American Dream while denying the problems of a schizophrenic son. Narrator Crosby Rawson had an unhappy girlhood in the Midwest. The problems? Her parents' rocky marriage and their constant relocations in search of better opportunity; and her kid brother Ben's bizarre behavior, which alienated potential new friends. But at last it looks as if Crosby will get what she wants: a chance to go to law school, love with the right man, a ""normal"" life among people who don't even know that schizophrenic Ben exists. Just before she enrolls at the University of Southern California, however, she hears from the director of an N.Y.C. homeless shelter: Ben was attacked and beaten and has disappeared. The novel moves back and forth in time: Crosby goes guiltily to New York to track down her estranged brother; she looks back on the years when they tried to copy the life they saw in TV commercials and in the Dick and Jane readers, and when she learned she could fit in only by rejecting any connection with Ben. Saiter's presentation of this poignant situation is too often schematic and spiced with dramatic moments that are not convincing (as when muggers take Crosby's purse, and then announce that before raping her they will inject her with an obviously contaminated syringe). The final epiphany seems drawn more from psychological theory rather than from experience. Appealing concept but a heavy-handed fiction debut.

Pub Date: Jan. 14th, 1990
Publisher: Donald Fine