The normally stable father of high school junior Jordan becomes involved with a married woman, then kills someone. Told as a flashback through Jordan's first-person narrative (although Jordan does not reveal at the beginning who dies), the novel takes place during the summer on a fictional island in western Washington. Debut YA novelist Caletti peoples Jordan's world with fascinating characters, including a hippie mother who runs a bed and breakfast with her kinetic artist husband, and her best friend, status-focused Melissa, who works with Jordan at a weight loss center run by an eccentric Christian couple. Jordan herself can be funny, making light of her situation with caustic remarks ("He was an optometrist for God's sake" she says when people ask her what her murderous father was like), and also vulnerable ("That's not what people want to hear-that my father was just a normal guy whom I loved, love, with all my heart") as she leads readers carefully towards her eventual realization of her own identity. She also weaves in pieces of advice she's picked up from Big Mama, a wise, warm-hearted fishery worker who often incorporates salmon into her lessons. Two subplots involving Jordan's romantic interests create unnecessary distractions, but captivating details make this scandalous story seem all too real, and Jordan's magnetic voice marks Caletti as a writer to watch. Ages 12-up. (Nov.)
Narrator Jordan manages to capture both the ennui and the angst of adolescence in this novel. Throughout, she maintains a distance from the story while relating tragic, emotional events. Jordan's father is in jail for the murder of his lover's wife-a fact that the reader will discover within the first few pages. As Jordan tells the story of her summer, it evolves into more than just a narration of the fateful event. It is a tale of a mother and daughter so alike and so different that they cannot get along, of a relationship that exists because it is easier than saying no, and of loving someone of whom your friends will not approve. Perhaps that is why the reader struggles to be fully captured by the story-there is too much of Jordan's life crowding the plot line. The narrative distance might work for some readers as a commentary on Jordan's summer experiences or as the ultimate teenage boredom. Each plot element certainly holds popular appeal. Nonetheless, the book slows down in the middle, forcing the reader to soldier on until end, despite a death, a murder, and running away. This book is a quiet one, approaching events with a cool remove that leaves the reader on the outside looking in. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P S (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster, 384p,
Mary Ann Harlan
For realistic fiction fans, seventeen-year old Jordan Mackenzie offers an honest, poignant portrayal of life taking unexpected twists. Like many teenagers, Jordan craves stability and normalcy. She finds this in her father, a down-to-earth optometrist, who can be counted on to be home for dinner. However, life changes when rich, sophisticated Beverly D'Angelo steps onto the scene. At first Jordan does not believe her father capable of an illicit affair, but as the relationship unfolds, Jordan realizes he might be capable of even worse. Reeling with this knowledge, Jordan must readjust her vision of the world. The first person voice and simple sentence structure give the book a fast-paced feel, but never compromise detail and depth of character. Written with adult language and straightforward sexual scenes, the book is intended for mature audiences. 2002, Simon Pulse,
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-From the beginning of this absorbing novel, readers know that Jordan's father will kill the husband of the woman with whom he's having an affair. The tone of the story, however, is unexpectedly light as Caletti introduces the teen's free-spirited mother, ultra-religious boss, colorful neighbors, and optometrist father. Caught up in her own romantic dilemma-choosing between a cruel but good-looking classmate and the quirky, caring brother of her best friend-Jordan is slow to realize that her father is having an affair with glamorous Gayle D'Angelo. In the last 100 pages, she must come to terms with what her father has done and find a way to rebuild her own life. Most of the novel, however, deals with her day-to-day life, friendships, and family relationships. Caletti lovingly describes the setting, a small town on the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound, and Jordan's several adult mentors are well developed as characters. Her own poor choices at times run parallel to her father's, as she dates and has a disastrous sexual encounter with a boy she knows is bad news before finally wising up. Through it all, she manages to observe the people around her with love and amusement. Teens will gain insight into how obsessive love can drive even ordinary-seeming individuals to commit terrible acts.-Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Alternating between pithy humor and ominous foreboding, high-school junior Jordan MacKenzie’s voice describes her life, family, and friends in this gothic with an edge. The edge is from her own witty commentary on life on Parrish Island, an imaginary community located off the coast of Washington State in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The bringing together of sadness and foreboding with humor is reminiscent of Elvin in Chris Lynch’s Slot Machine (1995) although Jordan appears to be less intentionally working at being funny. It is simply her take on life: her values, her awareness of pretensions, oddities, and incongruencies. The characters leap to life (including the dogs), as Jordan details the daily events that inexorably lead first to tragic events, and ultimately to a rescue of a sort. Threading throughout is the awareness that horror is ahead. When it does arrive, it doesn’t quite seem as ghastly as expected. Most of the plot is driven by actions of the adults in the story, but when Jordan chooses to act, she’s obviously learned a trick or two about manipulation and getting what you want. She’s chosen to live with her father as the more normal one of her parents, but he becomes obsessed with a married woman and Jordan’s life spirals out of control. While not the focus, her own first miserable experiences with sex and the death of a grandparent are encompassed in this somewhat long, but nonetheless fast-paced debut. Humor gets little respect, but Caletti expertly succeeds in capturing the way a smart teen can grasp and skewer her world and what passes for everyday normal in a wry tone that never fails to recognize the seriousness of the situation. Cosmic comedy. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
"Captivating details make this scandalous story seem all too real."
Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Debut YA novelist Caletti peoples Jordan's world with fascinating characters...Jordan's magnetic voice marks Caletti as a writer to watch."
Publishers Weekly, starred review
"The book unfolds the drama slowly and suspensefully, creating an everyday teen world that's perceptive, funny, and nuanced in its own right..."
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review
"Gothic with an edge...The characters leap to life...Caletti expertly succeeds in capturing the way a smart teen can grasp and skewer her world..."
"Entertaining, atmospheric...Jordan's authentic teenage voice...will hold readers, as will the emotional issues...."
Read an Excerpt
People ask me all the time what having Vince MacKenzie for a father was like. What they mean is, was he always crazy?
High school junior Jordan MacKenzie's life was pretty typical: fractured family, new boyfriend, dead-end job. She'd been living with her father (the predictable optometrist) since her mother (the hippie holdover) had been too embarrassing to be around. Jordan felt like she finally had as normal a life as she could. But then came Gayle D'Angelo.
Jordan knew her father was dating Gayle, and that Gayle was married. Jordan knew it was wrong, and that her father was becoming someone she didn't recognize anymore, but what could she do about it? And how could she -- how could anyone -- have possibly guessed that this illicit love affair would implode in such a violent and disturbing way?