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Gr 8-12 For 15 - year - old Red, the family move from Calgary to rural Alberta is bearable only because of his close friendship with classmate Lance . That friendship is tested by the secrets that neither boy can bring himself to reveal to the other. Red's talented, popular older brother lies brain dead in a nursing home after a reckless auto ride when he was on drugs; Lance's mother walked out when her son was five. Both boys have to deal with fathers who are embittered by life's unfairness. Halvorson's descriptions of her home area are interesting, and she cares deeply about the characters whom she has created with warmth and understanding. While Halvorson supplies a host of attention-grabbing topicshorse-training, country music, Native American problems, child abuse, and parent-child communicationthese subplots are described in so much detail that the story does not move. Every now and then, a melodramatic, hard-to-believe turn of plot is forcibly introduced. The story's theme of retaining the love of others by giving them the right to their own choices dissolves in sentimentality. Earnest, well-intentioned, but not involving. Libby K. White, Schenectady County Public Library, N.Y.

Despite occasional shifts in tone, the Canadian setting and dynamics in this book should appeal to readers. Red Cantrell and his best friend Lance Ducharme are both 15 and have an idyllic friendship. Then Lance's mother Ann-Marie, missing for many years, shows up. Red arranges a meeting between Lance and his mother, but Lance is devastated by her reappearancehe'd considered her dead. He becomes sullen and turns to drugs. Then, to avoid the pain and revelations of a custody battle, Lance decides that he must live with her. But a happier ending ensues, with understanding gained all around. The dialogue in some of the emotional scenes is disconcertingly glib. At other times, Red and Lance sound like real teenagers groping toward maturity. (12-up)

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