Thirteen-year-old Maxine, protagonist of MacPhail's (Run Zan Run) unconvincing novel, believes that her parents "hadn't any room in their thoughts, in their hearts... for her"; her older brother has been missing for 10 months, and they are obsessed with finding him. Sometimes she almost hates Derek and sometimes she wishes that "he had just died." But after her father identifies his body, her mother is inconsolable and begins seeking out mediums to communicate with her dead son. Meanwhile, Maxine receives mysterious phone calls from someone claiming to be Derek; Maxine wonders if it's a ghost or a bully out to hurt her, or perhaps it really is her brother after all. While Maxine's complicated feelings for her missing brother are understandable, other aspects of the novel, unfortunately, come across as too extreme, such as Maxine's father's angry reactions to her skipping school and to her attempts to talk to him about the phone calls, as well as the remarkably facile family therapy session in which Maxine is finally able to tell her parents how neglected she feels and get confirmation of their love. Ages 10-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Thirteen-year-old Maxine's brother Derek is missing, and she is happy about it. She has wished her older brother dead on more than one occasion because of the attention her parents give to him instead of her. Maxine regrets her thoughts when the police tell the family that they have found a body that they believe is Derek's. Maxine's parents confirm his identity by the clothes he was wearing when he disappeared. Shortly after the identification, Maxine begins receiving telephone calls from someone claiming to be Derek. When she traces the call, the operator tells her that the calls originate from a cemetery. Is Derek really alive? Is it his ghost who is calling Maxine? Is it someone playing a cruel, sick joke? After exhausting the supernatural possibilities, Maxine discovers that Derek is indeed alive and has staged his death because of some nasty business he is mixed up in with Sweeney, the school bully. MacPhail's novel is a fast-paced, suspenseful British import. Readers who enjoy thrillers by authors such as Caroline Cooney, Lois Duncan, and Joan Lowery Nixon will find this novel an engaging mystery that keeps them guessing until the end. 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). 2002, Bloomsbury, 192p,
Since her older brother's disappearance ten months ago, thirteen-year-old Maxine Moody's life has been miserable—cutting school, losing friends, and having her parents ignore her by focusing all their attention on finding their son, Derek. After her father identifies a body as Derek's, Maxine's nightmare becomes even worse. Instead of accepting Derek's death, Maxine's mother resorts to psychics. Suddenly, Maxine begins receiving phone calls from someone claiming to be Derek, and she wonders — could it be a ghost? Or a prank pulled by the very same bully who tormented Derek? Or, perhaps, (no, it couldn't be), it is Derek, himself? Telling her father about the mysterious phone calls, though, proves to be a terrible mistake. Her father hurls harsh accusations at her that she is just vying for their attention. However, undeterred and determined, plucky Maxine, with the aid of a good friend, risks her life, and discovers the real truth about Derek's disappearance. Set in present-day England, this novel's action and suspense are nonstop, as the story is filled with unexpected twists and turns that are sure to keep middle school girls—and reluctant readers— turning the pages. 2002, Bloomsbury Children's Books, 192 pp.,
Gr 5-8-Maxine Moody, 13, is struggling with the disappearance of her older brother. Her emotions run from guilt for wishing Derek dead to rage at her parents' seeming indifference toward her, and her guilt deepens when her father identifies Derek's body. The Moody family begins to unravel further as her mother seeks comfort from psychics and her father refuses to talk about his son or his wife's deteriorating health. Matters worsen when someone begins calling Maxine, identifying himself as Derek. She thinks that the calls may be the doing of the vicious class bully, who had taunted her brother. Unable to turn to her parents, she confides in her new friend Cam, who agrees to go with her to meet the mystery caller. The plot initially catches readers' interest, but then it branches into many poorly developed subplots, and the thin characterizations make it difficult to care about these people and their problems. The conclusion seems contrived when all the conflicts are solved and Derek returns home. Fans of the mystery/suspense genre will be better served with titles by Caroline Cooney and Lois Duncan.-Angela M. Ottman, Merton Williams' Middle School, Hilton, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
As 13-year-old Maxine assaults an arcade video game, the reader is dropped into the fray and knows that this girl is suffering from more than teen angst. It has been ten months since her brother Derek ran away from home: a final desperate solution to escape a rabid school bully. Derek had found his parents unhelpful, and they are now so burdened with sorrow that they hardly notice Maxine except to scold. When Derek is confirmed dead, Maxine's grief is complicated by a sense of relief that is soon followed by desolation as she sees that his death has only made him a bigger presence in the household. The story takes an eerie turn when Maxine starts getting phone calls from the cemetery, the ghostly voice of Derek coming down the line, and her mother begins sensing Derek's presence through mediums. Is someone playing a wicked trick? Is Derek a ghost? Is Derek still alive? The pace quickens and MacPhail, a newcomer to US publishing, steadily delivers goose-bump-raising tidbits to keep those pages turning. The tale is so involving that when the ending arrives it is too soon, but certainly not disappointing, as it is both frightening and triumphant. The story, with characters as palpable as this page, works on many levels: it explores the complexity of grief and love, the devastating fact of runaways living on the street, and the powerful menace of bullies, all in the guise of a good old-fashioned ghost story. (Fiction. 12-17)