CON-fidence by Todd Strasser


Age Range: 10 - 13
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In tackling the well-worn theme of a girl who aspires to enter the in-crowd, Strasser (Give a Boy a Gun, 2000, etc.) complicates the usual plot by introducing a female, middle-school version of a con man. Lauren, who spends lunchtime with her overweight friend Tara, longingly watches the popular girls’ table as Celeste, a new girl, joins the inner circle. When Celeste befriends her, Lauren hopes it will pull her into the clique. But it’s soon obvious that Celeste is untrustworthy, stealing Lauren’s CDs, copying her homework, borrowing money she doesn’t repay, yet never inviting Lauren to the coveted lunch table. Why Lauren is so desperate to be popular, and why Celeste is so devious, are never clear. The hints about Celeste’s dishonesty intensify when Lauren and Celeste are elected co-treasurers of their class. Implausibly, they can withdraw hundreds of dollars from the class bank account with only their signatures and no adult approval. When Celeste insists they practice their signatures together, it’s obvious—although apparently not to Lauren—that Celeste is up to something. She fakes Lauren’s signature and steals the money, successfully setting Lauren up to take the blame and sacrifice her hard-earned savings to make up for some of the loss. Equally implausibly, parents are not called in and the principal decides to overlook the $200 still missing. The text addresses readers as “you,” but since readers are unlikely to be as gullible as Lauren, equating them with her is distracting. While readers may identify with the premise of wishing to be popular even at a high price, the awkward narrative voice and the holes in the plot keep this from being wholly persuasive. (Fiction 10-13)

Pub Date: Dec. 15th, 2002
ISBN: 0-8234-1394-2
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Holiday House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2002


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