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Razzle
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When his parents retire, Kenyon, the 15-year-old narrator of Wittlinger's (Hard Love) uneven new book, begrudgingly moves with them from Boston to the Cape Cod beach community, where they plan to renovate and run a cottage colony for tourists. He meets eccentric (and equally lonely) Razzle at the Truro town dump where she works. While their relationship develops smoothly and realistically, other characters and plot points come off as flat. As Ken gets more involved in Razzle's chaotic life, she teaches him not to be a "perwin" ("person without imagination") and instead to be someone visible. He also learns though a little late the value of loyalty. Some of the plotting is spot on (for example, when Ken, a budding photographer, is manipulated by a loose local knockout to showcase cheesy photos of her along with his soulful shots of Razzle at the end-of-the-summer art show). Readers will also relate to the strained relationship he has with his parents, especially his mother who raised him on "automatic pilot." Other points are less successful, such as Razzle's alcoholic mother's dramatic confession about what happened to the father of her children, and a few supporting characters, including a gay plumber and an old artist who stays at the cottages, seem too scripted. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 7-10-Adept characterization takes the lead in this absorbing narrative told by teenager Kenyon Baker, whose family has just moved to Cape Cod from Boston to take over a group of vacation cottages. Ken's voice throughout is candid, sensitive, humorous, and a bit sarcastic. On his first visit to the town dump, he meets Razzle, an independent teenager with definite opinions about almost everything. Ken looks back on this as a turning point in his life, which had been a "long snooze" until then. A close friendship develops between the two, which helps Ken figure out who he is and what's important to him. Razzle inspires his artistry as a photographer and helps him adjust to his new life. In spite of this appealing friendship, readers watch helplessly as Ken allows himself to be seduced by Harley, a beautiful but manipulative girl who has been Razzle's nemesis. Wittlinger fills the story with a cast of intriguing, offbeat characters, and her crisp style enlivens them and their actions. Razzle would really like to know who her father is even though she pretends not to care. She and her brother live with her eccentric maternal grandmother. Her alcoholic, foul-mouthed mother had been a promiscuous, irresponsible teenager, and her occasional visits to Truro spark tension within the family. Frank, a patient, wise plumber from Provincetown who was hired to fix up the rundown cabins, spends a great deal of time with Ken. His homosexuality adds to the focus on tolerance. Just as in her previous novel, Hard Love (S & S, 2001), Wittlinger evokes caring in readers and gives them plenty to think about.-Renee Steinberg, Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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