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Gr 6-9-- Shortly before he enters high school, Lockie Leonard and his family move from Perth to a small town along the Australian coast. His first weeks in his new school are disastrous, and he tries to keep a low profile. On his 14th birthday, he meets Vicki Streeton and falls in love. From then on they are constantly together, and Vicki's popularity rubs off on him. Lockie's love life deteriorates, however, when Vicki drops him for a couple of punks with a van. In a confrontation with them, Lockie gets beaten up when he refuses to fight. Although most of the characters are not fleshed out well (the hero's parents are disgustingly understanding at all times), the main problem with this novel is its excessive use of Australian slang. An early incident is largely incomprehensible because of the language, and Lockie's woodworking teacher literally throws him out for making a seemingly innocent remark with an apparent double meaning. In light of the boy's later popularity, the whole scene seems unnecessary. Better Australian novels dealing with YA problems, such as The Heroic Life of Al Capsella (Holt, 1990), are available. --Jo-Anne Weinberg, Greenburgh Public Library, NY

Moving to Australia's East Coast from Perth makes 14-year-old Lockie an outsider and a city boy--an identity worsened by the fact that his father is a cop and the family lives on the wrong side of the tracks. Still, between smart-mouthing in school, thrashing the waves on his surfboard and having the popular Vicki Streeton as a girlfriend, Lockie soon establishes his place in town. It's a difficult time: sexual stirrings begin perplexing Lockie, and Vicki seems to be confusing love with precocious sex. The boy is also faced with other, more universal concerns, such as the depletion of the ozone, nuclear weapons and world peace. While trendy brand names, pop artists and television programs will date this first novel, Lockie's successes with the business of life have the solid ring of truth. Winton's dry, typically Down Under wit and his use of alien, sometimes challenging Australian slang should charm young readers on this side of the equator. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)

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