This latest offering from the husband-and-wife team (Zipped) brims with affecting characters and an eerie plotline, colored by elements of the supernatural. Sixteen years old, headstrong and without parents, Lana Morris finds herself in a foster home full of "Snicks" (special needs kids) who are tenderly portrayed with a multitude of quirks. Their foster mother, Veronica, is hostile toward Lana, however, because Lana has a crush on Veronica's compassionate husband, Whit. In several disconcertingly romantic scenes, Whit takes advantage of Lana's misplaced affections in the interest of, in his words, "decoding" her. One of Lana's few lifelines to the outside world is Chet, her sympathetic neighbor. Lana hopes to break into his social circle of outcasts, riding in the trunk of their car to escape her routine. During one outing, Lana buys a box of paper that she comes to believe is the canvas on which she can redraw her life-a liberating idea. When Lana sketches a portrait of Veronica, her foster mother demands she erase it. Lana only gets as far as erasing one of Veronica's arms-the very arm Veronica loses soon after in a traffic accident. The sense of power Lana experiences through her sketches escalates-as do the results, which quickly spin out of control. Lana emerges as a fullyformed heroine; while some of the choices she makes may frustrate readers, her generosity and compassion for the "Snicks" should win her many fans. Ages 12-up. (May)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Sixteen-year-old Lana finds herself in yet another foster home, this time with four special-needs youth, a foster father who flirts with her, and a foster mother who is as cold as ice. On a chance visit to an antique shop, Lana buys a Ladies Drawing Kit. Slowly she realizes that the scenes she draws on this remarkable paper come true. When Veronica, the foster mother, insists that Lana erase the drawing in which Veronica is depicted as the Ice Queen, Lana only gets one arm erased. Shortly afterwards, Veronica is in a car accident and loses an arm. Not wanting to accidentally hurt anyone else, Lana tries to help Chet, the boy next door who has showed her kindness, and Garth, a foster brother, with mixed results. When it becomes clear that the state will close the foster home, forcing Lana and her foster brothers and sister to be separated, Lana asks Chet to drive them all back to the antique shop, where she hopes to find another drawing kit with special powers. Fully realized characters, both teen and adult, make this book a captivating read. In distinct and thoughtfully crafted voices, characters reveal zany teen humor, adolescent longings, adult treachery, and youthful belief that wrongs should be righted. The touch of fantasy that drives the plot highlights a universal teen dilemma-how to use the power of personal decision. The ending seems a bit contrived, but is gratifying nonetheless and should add to this novel's wide appeal.
An omniscient, sly, wise voice narrates this novel, the story of Lana Morris, a foster child, age 16, daughter of a drug-addicted mother and a dead father, who finds herself, after a lot of previous Bad Experiences, in a foster home run in a Nazi-like fashion for the "specially abled." In less politically correct terms, this means mentally challenged, autistic, or Down syndrome children whose mothers have rejected them. Lana is attracted to her foster father, who is equally attracted to her, but actually, he is not around much. He is supposed to be a house painter, but strangely, never smells of paint or turpentine. Meanwhile, his wife Veronica runs the home like a prison camp. For a social life, Lana tags along with the next-door neighbor Chet and his gang of vicious lowlife friends on their housebreaking forays or their aimless cruising about their small town in summer-hot Iowa. Lana has to ride in the trunk, which in an indication of her self-esteem, she willingly does. Then Magic enters Lana's life, and the pictures she draws foretell the future, only her forecasting comes about in unexpected ways, something like the way wishes come true in the short story "The Monkey's Paw." In other words, there's a catch. If the reader can suspend disbelief, accept the magic and enjoy the oddness of the likeable cast of characters, including the neighbor boy Chet's basic good-heartedness, this is a good story about finding self and the essential sweetness of life among the dross that surrounds it.
Gr 8 Up
Lana Morris, 16, is the only non-"Snick" in a Nebraska foster home. "Snicks" are her neglectful foster mother's term for special-needs kids (SNKs). Lana is enormously lonely; kids in town are downright cruel to her, her foster mother is jealous and inattentive, and her foster father is too attentive (he and Lana share an attraction and, at one point, a kiss). Her only support comes from the mildly kind boy next door. Lana is often left in charge of the other children and has to cope as best she can with rough, complicated situations. She buys a drawing kit in an antique store and finds that anything she sketches comes to be. This is powerful stuff, and Lana learns quickly that you have to be careful what you wish for. She tries to do right, and things point to a happy ending, but the road there is very twisty. The McNeals have interesting turns of phrase and their language can be very evocative, but sometimes their characters have wisdom well beyond their years. The novel has too many issues piled on top of one another-the lives of foster children, coming of age, forbidden love, magic, self-reliance, first love, trusting others. Still, the writing is lovely and the characters are real people who elicit genuine feelings from readers. Give this story to your more mature readers who want some heft to their magical realism stories.
Geri DiorioCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Sixteen-year-old foster child Lana Morris has a lot of wishes. She wants her conniving foster mother, Veronica, to treat her like a foster daughter rather than a housemaid and a threat. She'd like to be accepted by the local teens, have friends other than her special-needs foster brothers and sister, and to figure out her relationship with her foster father. In a cluttered antique shop with an aged proprietress, Lana finds a Ladies' Drawing Kit containing 13 pink speckled sheets of paper and some charcoal pencils. When she draws, the first two sketches come true, and now all she has to decide is what to do with the remaining 11 wishes. Then she faces the threat of ejection from her foster home. Lana draws and contemplates her wishes against a background of subplots on the nature of romance, marriage and the need to belong. The small-town summer setting gives the work a feeling of a slow, almost magical unfolding of events. Each of these events is enthralling, leading to a tidy, upbeat ending. The peripheral characters are distinctive and in Veronica's case, terrifying. A subtle yet complex, slightly surreal story about the power of wishing. (Fiction. YA)