Although her friends try to discourage her, Rebecca begins to develop a close relationship with a talented but troubled high school classmate.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyOne day Rebecca notices that one of her classmates, a thin boy with haunting green eyes, seems a million miles away. Becoming friends with him, she discovers that Joseph, under extraordinary pressure from his parents, has retreated into his own world--The Desert. Rebecca accidentally betrays Joseph's trust, and the boy's subsequent alienation and depression lead him to attempt suicide. Seymour delicately explores the extremes of adolescent angst in this short, focused story. Calling to mind the solidarity seen in the teen-oriented movie The Breakfast Club , this debut novel has a buoyant message and perspicacious first-person narrator that--despite the book's bland, unappealing jacket--should find favor with YA readers. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
School Library Journal - School Library JournalGr 8-10-- Although ninth-grader Rebecca receives attention from a popular boy, she is fascinated by multitalented but emotionally withdrawn O. Z. He gradually allows her into his isolated world, which he describes in terms of living in a desert. Rebecca senses that one source of the boy's pain is parental pressure to excel in all areas. He lends her his journal in which he expresses feelings of closeness to her; when classmates get hold of it and tease him, he attempts suicide. In the end, the friendship is reaffirmed and there is a ray of hope for O. Z., and Rebeccca realizes that there is a little loneliness in everyone's life. Seymour conveys the pain experienced by a troubled teen, as well as the cruel reactions of peers. However, like Rebecca, readers are ultimately kept in the dark as to what makes O. Z. tick. His use of desert metaphors might confuse all but the most psychologically sophisticated readers. The solitary nature of the human condition is a relevant theme for young adults, but this brief story offers little insight. For more meaningful explorations of the dynamics of dysfunctional families and resultant emotional problems, see Newton's I Will Call It Georgie's Blues (Dell, 1986) and Bridgers's Notes for Another Life (Knopf, 1981). --Jacqueline Rose, Southeast Regional Library, NC
Janice Del NegroTalented, possibly brilliant, Joseph "O.Z." Bell has created a world of his own--a desert, both physical and emotional. It is a buffer between his sensibilities and the well-intentioned pressure of his parents, and while it is beautiful, it is also inhospitable and unforgiving. Into this fantasy comes Rebecca, connecting O.Z. to the satisfactions of the real world as well as to its dangers. Only Rebecca and O.Z.'s "average" older brother, Reuben, realize O.Z. is heading toward the breaking point. When O.Z.'s journal is stolen and the desert world revealed, O.Z. seeks a way out through suicide. He's saved by Rebecca and his brother and by his own suddenly realized desire to live. Only 96 pages long, the story, told from the point of view of 16-year-old Rebecca, is more novelette than novel. There's an occasional jarring awkwardness in the writing style, a forced "teenageness" that prevents Rebecca's voice from ringing altogether true, but Seymour realistically creates the environment that surrounds Rebecca and O.Z. and gently draws both Rebecca and the reader into the fantasy world O.Z. has created.
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