Small Damages

304p. CIP. Philomel. July 2012. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25748-3. LC 2011020947.
Gr 9 Up—Kenzie is 18 and pregnant, much to the embarrassment of her mother and her Yale-bound boyfriend, Kevin. Feeling helpless and alone, she submits to her mother's plan to keep the mistake hidden by going to stay with friends of friends in Spain for the duration of the pregnancy and giving up the baby to adoptive parents. In a daze, Kenzie finds herself on a dusty bull farm, Los Nietos, hot and lonely, experiencing a lifestyle that is completely different from her former life. But it is in this unknown landscape that the young woman finds the support that she lacks at home. The cranky old cook, Estela, and the mysterious young horseman, Esteban, become the nurturing mother and attentive friend that Kenzie yearns for, and she becomes the kind of person who can take care of herself and her baby. Beautifully told, the characters' stories are soulful and compelling, and the setting is rich and alive. While the subject matter might seem familiar, even overdone, this story is unexpectedly tender and original, never falling prey to cliché or the trappings of the typical teen problem novel. Or if it does—the moodiness, the somewhat easy resolution—the style is so engaging that the tale is still fulfilling.—Jennifer Miskec, Longwood University, Farmville, VA
Exiled to Spain for the course of her pregnancy, eighteen-year-old Kenzie haltingly ponders her complicated, loosely interrelated relationships. Seeking acceptance from her unsupportive boyfriend, her ashamed mother, the potential adoptive couple, and Estela, her stand-in mother figure in Spain, Kenzie seeks tenuous self-acceptance. Though enticing, the dreamlike writing fails to bind the many threads together, and Kenzie's eventual epiphany lacks impact.

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