October 2001

The pangs of first love

By Ellen Wittlinger
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Kenyon Baker is 15 and three-quarters. Much too young for a summer love triangle. Or is he? Invisible in his former high school, Ken arrives on Cape Cod, where his aging parents (Kenyon is the mistake of the family, the much younger brother of two sisters) have fulfilled a retirement dream and purchased a dilapidated summer cottage business. In exchange for helping to repair the cottages as rentals, Ken gets to live in one of the cottages and have his own darkroom.

Ken finds everything on the Cape more vivid than life back in Boston. It's the perfect place for a budding photographer. The sun is brighter, the wind stronger. And even the people seem different. Not in size, but in personality or something. They all seemed to stick out in ways I never noticed people sticking out in the city. But even in a community of people who stick out, Razzle Penney is distinctive. An outspoken, offbeat individualist, Razzle works at the Swap Shop at the town dump. Tall and skinny, Razzle is not afraid of being or acting different. Razzle immediately takes Ken into her world, which includes her brother, grandmother, a parcel of dogs and an alcoholic mother who has kept a secret from her daughter for years. As for Ken, he begins to think Razzle might be his muse. The series of photographs he takes of Razzle are the best work he has ever done. Yet their friendship is threatened when Kenyon becomes the object of attention of a beautiful, world-wise girl named Harley. As the summer progresses, Ken finds himself faced with making difficult choices that test not only the bonds of loyalty, but perhaps just as important, his own artistic integrity.

Like Hard Love, Ellen Wittlinger's award-winning first novel, Razzle will appeal to teen readers who are interested not only in exploring relationships, but also in finding artistic self-expression. With warm, memorable characters and a fully realized setting, Razzle is a book about those special summers in our lives that we'll always remember.

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By Ellen Wittlinger
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9780689835650

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