Hormones threaten the best of friends in Farrell's (Marrying Malcolm Murgatroyd; Bradley and the Billboard) take on the duckling-turned-swan story. Soon-to-be high school freshmen Jack and Chris have been inseparable since first grade. But almost overnight Chris turns into a beauty and starts turning the heads of the hunks at the country club. So much change leaves Jack baffled is he jealous of Chris or of the guys whose attentions she repays? Proving the strength of Chris and Jack's friendship, Farrell includes a scene in which Jack braves a potentially humiliating trip to the drugstore to buy Chris's first tampons, then dilutes the effect by having Chris explain menstruation to Jack in a conversation that seems straight out of sex-ed class. Familiar plot elements include Jack's fascination and eventual disillusionment with the in-crowd; Jack having dates with two girls (Chris and another) for the country club cotillion; and his obviously false conclusions about a woman's phone number found in the jacket belonging to his currently separated dad. Jack's confusion may be realistic, but his clumsiness is likely to frustrate and distance readers. Ironically, for all of Chris's explicit criticism of stories "where the wallflower magically blooms into a prom queen and gets the guy in the end," the author casts Chris in very nearly that role. Ultimately, Jack's reactions don't approach the inherent appeal of this tried-and-true story line, however much Farrell critiques it. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this lighthearted and good-intentioned novel, two friends of the opposite sex learn to cope with the changes in their relationship that occur as a result of adolescence. The story centers around Jack, a thirteen-year-old boy, whose parents have just separated. The confusion brought upon by this family crisis is further aggravated by Jack's shifting feelings for his long-standing best friend Chris. After other boys in the community begin to notice her (Chris) and ask for dates, Jack reexamines his own attraction to her. These feelings are new to Jack and make him uncomfortable around Chris. They also test the boundaries of their friendship. In the end, Jack must learn to accept that while people and situations do change, genuine caring among family and friends remains constant. Clearly, the author empathizes with the difficulty teenagers face during the transition from childhood to adulthood. While the characters in the book may sometimes seem too glib or articulate, they are likable. Readers will respond to them and to the realistic and humorous situations the author creates. Finally, the message about the importance of inner beauty and trust is a valuable one. 2001, Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.00. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Michele Gable
This story has some parts to it that we readers have to swallow hard to believe, but never mind, it's fun to read and touching as well. It's about best friends Chris and Jack, told in the third person for once (sometimes it is a relief to get away from the first-person narratives). These two have been friends since the first grade, when Chris helped newcomer Jack with his vowels (hence the pun on the title). Now they are ready to enter high school and Jack is suddenly aware that his best friend is a beautiful girl. Their lives get tangled up in confusion as Jack feels jealous of Chris's attraction to another guy and confused by his desire to kiss her (actually, she knocks him out literally when he does kiss her). Chris, by the way, is a star athlete who has worked hard to get Jack in training. Both have difficult home lives: Jack's parents are separated and all the children are confused and hurting; Chris' mother died a few years before and now her father is dating again. When Chris gets her period for the first time, it is Jack who she sends to the drug store to get tampons. The story is witty throughout, as we have come to expect from Farrell, author of Marrying Malcolm Murgatroyd and Bradley and the Billboard. Jack and Chris are wonderfully likable, and I appreciate that the conclusion is open-ended and not neatly tied up in some predictable romantic package. KLIATT Codes: JRecommended for junior high school students. 2001, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 176p, $16.00. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; March 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 2)
This engaging story of Chris and Jack, a girl and a boy who have been friends since first grade, takes place during the summer seven years after they initially meet. Chris has always been the achiever in sports and school. Jack, although not one of the beautiful people, belongs to the country club. None of these things have been important until Jack notices that other boys are becoming aware of Chris. Most action takes place within the country club setting, but there are occasional retreats to the beauty salon owned by Chris's father. In one conversation there, Jack learns that Chris's father had been a construction worker before he recognized his calling to make women beautiful. In other discussions, Jack seeks advice about dealing with girls. Jack also must deal with his parents' separation and his mother's unusual behavior. Jealousy and confusion bring out Jack's strengths and weaknesses, and public recognition of his artistic talent gains him a fleeting popularity with the in-crowd. At the country club ball, Chris amazes everyone while Jack has encounters that show people are not always what he thinks they are, allowing him to better understand himself. Although much of this book's focus is on girls, its center of attention is Jack and his reactions to facts of life and changing circumstances. Readers will enjoy his story as more challenging than series books, with lots of dialogue and activity. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P M J (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, Farrar Straus Giroux, 144p, Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Patricia Morrow SOURCE: VOYA, June 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 2)
Gr 5-8-Artist Jack and athlete Chris have been friends since first grade. Now 13, Jack thinks he has romantic feelings for her. He is distracted, however, by his parents' marital problems and his desire to be accepted by the "beautiful people" at the Eastwood Country Club. After Chris reluctantly agrees to accompany Jack to the annual Summer Cotillion at the club, he takes popular Emily Baskin instead. Betrayed, Chris accepts another boy's invitation. Jack has a terrible time at the dance, realizing that Emily and her brother were only using him; Emily to show off Jack's artistic talent and her brother to get closer to Chris. Jack finally professes his love for Chris after she makes a stunning appearance at the cotillion, but she accuses him of finding her attractive only because other boys do. She rebuffs his romantic advances but tacitly agrees to remain friends. Although this ageless story is not treated in an innovative way, the writing is enjoyable and the characters are well drawn. A solid piece of contemporary fiction.-Rita Hunt Smith, Hershey Public Library, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Farrell's (Bradley and the Billboard, 1998, etc.) latest, about a young teenage boy who suddenly discovers that his best friend, a girl, has become not only a looker, but a looker with fabulous legs, is a thoroughly delightful confection. In the space of what seems like moments, Chris Moffett, a jock, has gone from wearing an old T-shirt that says "I stink therefore I ran" to a tennis outfit and makeup. Obviously from best friend Jack Jordan's point of view, this abrupt departure from the familiar cannot be borne, and if it must be, certainly not with good grace. Besides, it's disturbing to find your best buddy attractive. Poor Jack gets no comfort from his family either. His father recently moved out of the house, and his mother, once "the steadiest, most grounded individual" in Jack's life, is so thrown by his departure that she seems to be on some kind of "extended sightseeing tour of La-La Land." What's fun about this, besides the fact that it's witty and knowing, are the little, telling character details. For instance, when Chris's dad, a construction worker turned hairdresser, pours himself some juice, Jack notices that even that tiny motion "crunched up his right biceps until it was roughly the size of a cantaloupe." Farrell also has some perceptive things to say about the interplay between people's expectations regarding love and friendship, but her observations are delivered with a generous dollop of humor and never feel forced or preachy. A winner. (Fiction. 10-12)