Despite this first novel's firm sense of place--Pittsburgh--its grasp on time, narrative structure and characterization remains rather shaky. A pivotal event, in which protagonist Hallie's father ``flies'' his car from an unfinished bridge across the Allegheny River, is--according to a note in the text--based on an actual incident in 1964. McDonald does practically nothing to anchor the story in that period. She sets the scene for a problem novel rife with dramatic possibilities--embittered unemployed father, mother struggling to support the family, older sister with dark secret, a seventh-grader's first love--but she constantly misses the payoffs. Her troubled family is miraculously fine again after Hallie's father suffers amnesia following his car stunt, Shelley has only to sniffle a little to be straightened out, and Hallie's fears of physical intimacy with older admirer Crane melt away with a mere hug. Lack of a satisfying resolution makes this an uncompelling read. Ages 11-up. (Apr.)
Seventh-grader Hallie O'Shea tries desperately to close the ever-widening gap between her and her father, who was laid off two years earlier from his job as a bridge builder. It makes no sense to anyone--especially Jim O'Shea, whose only passion in life has been the intricate construction of iron and steel webs that span rivers in Pittsburgh--that a bridge should be left uncompleted, a bridge to nowhere. Hallie's mother nervously watches her husband's mind deteriorate, and Hallie's sister, Shelley, away at college, is unwilling to see the real picture at home. Hallie turns to Crane Henderson, two years older, who offers a fresh perspective and warmth, kindling Hallie's first boy-girl relationship. In the typical fits and starts common to new friendships, Hallie learns a lot about herself. When her father unexpectedly travels the bridge to nowhere and ends up in the hospital, she finds a new strength and the ability to cope. This welcome first novel by the author of several picture books (among them, "The Great Pumpkin Switch" ), offers realistic characters, an attention-holding plot that blends Hallie's normal teen concerns with her worry about and anger at her father, and an upbeat ending.
Megan McDonald is the author of the award-winning Judy Moody series and its companion series starring Stink. She is also the author of ANT AND HONEY BEE, illustrated by Brian Karas. "I used to live near my sister in Minnesota, where it’s very snowy," she says. "My sister had a mailman whose name was . . . Jack Frost. For real! I never forgot because I thought it was so funny and so magical." Megan McDonald now lives in Sebastopol, California.