A child prodigy experiences a double dose of adolescent anxiety: She is expected not only to write a second publishable work but also to move into her teen. age years with the maturity she exhibited throughout her childhood. And that maturity has vanished: Valerie starts dressing in black (in imitation of the poet who helped her get published) and reading erroneously between the lines of adult conversations, inventing subtexts and imagining premises. Nonetheless, there are real secrets in her parents' pasts; as Valerie unearths them, she grasps the key to her own development as a writer, and as a person: taking her time. Parts of this novel are so expressively on the mark that it's easy to become impatient with other passages where more is hinted at than handed out, or where the parental double talk and casual allusions remain maddeningly oblique--both to Valerie and to readers. Yet Terris writes so rivetingly of Valerie's heartfelt confusion in the face of ordinary and extraordinary changes that it's impossible not to root for this Holly Golightly of the pre-teen set.