Publishers Weekly
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Lecesne, the Academy Award-winning writer of the film short Trevor, turns out a stunner of a first novel, using a deliberately leisurely pace to develop a careful view of a smalltown New Jersey community-and then shattering it. Phoebe, the ruminative 15-year-old narrator, is appalled when the orphaned son of her uncle's ex-girlfriend moves in with her fatherless family: it's not just that 13-year-old Leonard shows up in pink-and-green plaid capris, a midriff-baring T-shirt, platform sandals and pierced ears-"I like different. I am different," Phoebe explains to readers-but "something about him seemed to invite ridicule. Like he was saying, go on, I dare you, say something." Soon Leonard wins over Phoebe's mother, who operates a hair salon, and her clients, as he prescribes exactly what they need to release their inner beauty. But before these characters harden into types, the mood blackens, not unexpectedly but nevertheless horrifyingly. Lecesne is an artist with small details, using them liberally both to heighten his characters' world and to plant material whose significance emerges only much later. A somewhat didactic ending does not dim this book's pleasures nor flatten its complexities; readers are still left to wrangle with ambiguities and unmeasured depths. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved