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Friction
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About the Author

E.R. Frank is the author of America, Friction, Wrecked, and Dime. Her first novel, Life Is Funny, won the Teen People Book Club NEXT Award for YA Fiction and was also a top-ten ALA 2001 Quick Pick. In addition to being writer, E.R. Frank is also a clinical social worker and psychotherapist. She works with adults and adolescents and specializes in trauma.

Reviews

Gr 6-10-Alex, almost 13, has gone to Forest Alternative school for three years, and is a force on the otherwise all-male soccer team. Simon is her teacher, coach, and friend. He has taught his students with attention toward their intellectual, athletic, and emotional growth. When Stacy, a new girl, waltzes into this eighth-grade utopia, the balance of the classroom dynamics tips. She starts rumors about Simon's attraction to Alex, and casts a sticky web of sexual discomfort over the class. Everything Alex sees, feels, and knows becomes laden with ulterior meanings. Only Simon remains clueless about what's going on. He is a free spirit who neglects protocol and makes poor choices. On the class camping trip Alex sees his "thing" on her way to the latrine. Later, he climbs into the kids' tent to avoid a storm and lies down next to her. At novel's end, the only clarity is that the brash and troubled Stacy has caused the pain in her own life to seep over into those who've been previously spared. False accusations, dark family secrets, professional boundaries, and coming-of-age, all contribute to the novel's friction, reflecting a point of view that twists, turns, and confronts readers. Most of them will identify with Alex, her conflicting thoughts, and the events that she unintentionally unleashes. Her voice is convincingly genuine, and her confusion and self-doubt are powerful reminders of the na?vet? and culpability of adolescence. The silent, if misplaced guilt that she absorbs will linger long after the book is closed.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Frank (America; Life Is Funny) insightfully addresses the topics of teen sexuality and child abuse as she delves into the muddled emotions of a 12-year-old girl. Narrator Alex, a tomboy, feels comfortable and secure at her alternative school, where students and faculty are like family. Things change, however, with the arrival of a new student, Stacy, who insinuates that there is something more than friendship between Alex and classmate Tim, who has always been like a brother to Alex. Then Stacy claims that their teacher, Simon, is a "pervert," who "likes" Alex. Alex, angered by Stacy's outlandish remarks, nonetheless can't help wondering if there's a grain of truth in Stacy's lies. Tension escalates, threatening both Alex's friendship with Tim and Simon's professional reputation. Frank perceptively captures the ambiguity that arises with the awakening of sexual feelings, especially as she describes the nuances of Alex's relationships with Tim and with Simon-and the darker motives behind Stacy's behavior. The ending may confuse readers, and a couple of scenes with Simon seem unnecessary and inconsistent with his earlier portrayal (he sleeps beside Alex in a tent and later leaves Alex with the class's food order to make out with his girlfriend in a car), but these flaws hardly detract from the sensitivity with which Frank handles the bulk of the novel. Rather than coloring innocence and guilt in black and white, the author invites readers to explore the large gray area between truth and falsehood. Sure to spark heated discussions, this provocative novel is a reminder that words spoken carelessly can have lasting, painful repercussions. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Booklist, starred review Gripping...unsettling. Publishers Weekly Sure to spark heated discussions. SLJ, starred review Convincingly genuine.

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