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Picture perfect

by Elaine Alphin


Book Review

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Publishers Weekly :

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Alphin (Counterfeit Son; Simon Says) again explores the psychological ramifications of physical and emotional abuse in this taut suspense novel set in the small town of Sawville. The narrator, 14-year-old Ian Slater, lives under the thumb of his father (one of the punishments he devises for Ian is making the teen sleep in the family closet), who is also the local school's principal. Ian has two ways to escape his pain. One is retreating to the redwood forest outside of town to pursue his photography, a passionate interest he shares with his best friend, Teddy Camden. The other is to "zone out": "It's kind of like disappearing into a fog-sometimes I can sort of see things through the fog, but most of the time I don't have any idea what's happening," he explains to a kind classmate. When Teddy disappears, and Ian cannot remember anything that happened that day, he becomes the local sheriff's main suspect. Ian uncovers not just his father's surprising role in Teddy's disappearance, but his own coping mechanism: the development of multiple personalities. Ian's father may be a stock character, but Ian is fully formed. Unlike the narrator of Counterfeit Son, who gained a true understanding of himself only at the conclusion, Ian's process is gradual, as he slowly recovers his memory, making his story a compelling journey of self-discovery and self-protection. Ages 12-18.

Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.:

Book Review

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School Library Journal :

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Gr 9 Up-Ian's friend is missing, and no one knows what happened to him. Or do they? As Ian searches for clues, snatches of a forest glen and Teddy pleading for help keep creeping into his mind. On top of that, Ian's father, the school principal, has been putting extra pressure on his son to be perfect. The protagonist's three "personalities," School-Ian, Home-Ian, and Failure-Ian, all try to work together to do what is expected, but sometimes the expectations are too great and Ian "zones out." As he struggles to remember what he may have seen the day Teddy disappeared, he begins to understand what happened, what he is repressing, and what role his violent father played in his friend's disappearance. Once again, Alphin uses child abuse and the machinations of the mind to create her story, but this time it falls short of believability. While the setting is perfect and Ian's character is well developed, readers are likely to be puzzled by the initially unexplained voice Ian hears in his head. Also, some of Teddy's journal writing is obviously forced to advance the plot and may not ring true for teen readers. Because of the complexities of the relationships, reluctant readers will struggle, but better readers searching for a "male-oriented" mystery may be satisfied.-Lynn Evarts, Sauk Prairie High School, Prairie du Sac, WI

Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.:

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