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Readers will be immediately drawn to this hilarious and heartfelt first novel about a girl who falls in love—and has her first sexual experience—and tries to let go of her fears. Tess Whistle lives in Idaho with paranoid parents, who "became born again" after a kitchen fire. The book begins with an account of how she loses her virginity, then flashes back to the start of junior year, when she expected to stay a virgin until she is "at least engaged." Tess has plenty of phobias, mostly of the natural world where she could be "torn to pieces by a pack of recently relocated gray wolves." Just before her whole life crumbles, Benjamin Easter transfers to her school. Tess falls intensely in love without realizing "that you can't depend on another person to provide your own balance." And there's no doubt that Tess's life is out of balance: Her best friend is building a bomb, claiming she wants to blow up a poodle, her parents run off to join a survival camp, and Tess tells Ben she is diabetic as way of explaining her "juvenile" apple juice box, then maintains the lie. Readers may be so busy laughing out loud at the eccentric characters and outrageous plotting that they may not realize how much they have grown to empathize with desperate Tess until her relationship is in crisis. Readers will fall in love with this offbeat story—and its rich lesson about living a life without guarantees. Ages 14-up. (Jan.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.