Friday, February 27
Am I Right of Am I Right? by Barry Jonsberg
Calma Harrison, 16, is a bright, eccentric loner who loves English lit and brightly colored eyeglasses. Her only friend is Vanessa, a hippie so mellow she's nearly in a coma. Calma and her mother communicate via notes on the refrigerator. Then, her long-absent father appears in their tropical Australian town, desperate to speak to her, and her mother starts sneaking around at night, causing Calma to fear that her parents may be dating. When Vanessa becomes even more withdrawn and Calma notices cuts and scratches on her friend's body, she starts sleuthing. For the first quarter of the book, Jonsberg lays the teenage sarcasm on so thickly it backfires, and Calma, despite her raw language, sounds cutesy instead of edgy. Fortunately, she's more and more engaging as the plot progresses, and her depth and sincerity become obvious. Moreover, her jaunty narration creates a farcical mood that keeps the increasingly heavy subject matter from descending into melodrama.