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Brett McCarthy


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About the Author

Maria Padian has worked as a commercial radio news reporter, an essayist for public radio, a press secretary for a U.S. Congressman, and a freelance writer. She lives with her children and husband, and an Australian shepherd, in Maine, where she is at work on a new novel.


Padian's debut novel introduces a quirky and refreshing character. Fourteen-year-old Brett McCarthy is an independent-thinking jock who cherishes the time she spends with her best friend, Diane, and her spunky grandmother, Nonna. Unlike many of her fictional peers, Brett is neither beautiful nor brilliant, but simply an above-average student with a robust vocabulary and a killer instinct on the soccer field. Her life is perfect, or close to it, until an ill-advised phone prank triggers a falling-out with Diane. Soon Brett finds her identity redefined--a recurrent theme--from an athlete with friends to a troublemaker who's been kicked off the team. And when Nonna is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Brett must redefine herself again, from self-involved child to mature young woman. Forceful and heartwarming, this coming-of-age story examines what happens when old friends are outgrown and loved ones are no longer there to lean on. At one point, Brett says, "I had shed and added more defining characteristics than I even knew existed." And even though Padian embraces some well-worn stereotypes (the cheerleaders are pretty airheads and the jocks are blond Adonises), readers will relate to Brett's missteps and successes. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Gr 6-9-Brett thinks she knows herself pretty well: star soccer player, vocabulary ace, and best friend to Diane. But in eighth grade, Diane is more interested in the cheerleading crowd and everything is changing. A telephone prank backfires and Jeanne Anne, a new girl, manages to shift the blame to Brett, even though four girls were involved. Feeling victimized and angry, she loses her temper at school and punches Jeanne Anne, resulting in suspension. Within a few days, her social status has changed drastically, and the upheaval is mirrored at home when Brett discovers that her fun-loving grandmother is battling cancer. Over the course of the story, she moves from anger and obstinacy to a tentative exploration of the characteristics that really define Brett McCarthy. Although her path to self-discovery has its bumps, she ultimately realizes that the way she has thought of herself in the past has been more limiting than liberating. Padian's portrayal of the relationship between Brett and her Nonna is poignant and honest, especially as the cancer progresses and the girl must begin to let go. Chapter titles consisting of vocabulary words that Brett uses to describe her various emotional states ("apoplectic," "foreboding," "unprecedented," "surreal") give hints of things to come, but it is Padian's fully developed characters and ear for teenage voices that make this a story that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt isolated in the middle of a crowd.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, March 3, 2008:
"Forceful and heartwarming, this coming-of-age story examines what happens when old friends are outgrown and loved ones are no longer there to lean on."
Review, Parade, June 22, 2008:
"[A] hilarious coming-of-age story."

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