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Martin, Ann M. A corner of the universe.

Scholastic. 208p. c2002. 0-439-38880-5. J

"Last summer, the summer I turned twelve, was the summer Adam came," Hattie tells us at the start of this bittersweet tale set in 1960--and his arrival turns her quiet small-town life upside down. Adam is Hattie's 21-year-old uncle, whose existence had been kept a secret from her. He has been in a school for the mentally disabled since he was a child, but when it closes down Adam returns to the home of his rigid, controlling mother, Hattie's grandmother. Adam, who is impulsive and exuberant, fascinates Hattie; she feels he is a kindred spirit, a "visiting alien" like her, and he expands her world. Hattie is quiet and shy, reveling in the warmth of the boarding house her parents run and her friendships with the eccentric boarders, but Adam's presence emboldens her to defy her grandmother and help Adam--and herself--to enjoy some new experiences. One of these is an illicit visit to a traveling carnival, where Hattie has made a friend. When they get stuck briefly on top of the Ferris wheel, however, Adam panics, and Hattie must face the consequences. Even more tragically, Adam has a crush on a pretty boarder, and when he bursts into her room and finds her in bed with her boyfriend he is so distraught that he commits suicide.

Hattie learns "how quickly our world can swing between what is comfortable and familiar and what is unexpected and horrifying, "but she has also learned from Adam "that we have to talk about things," as well as the importance of exploring the world, lifting "the corners of the universe."

Martin, the author of Belle Teal and other books for YAs, offers a sympathetic portrait of the mentally ill in this sensitive, tender coming-of-age tale. Like Ruth White's Memories of Summer, another look at the impact of mental illness on a young relative, this is an insightful and affecting tale of how a girl arrives at a hard-won new understanding of others. Paula Rohrlick, KLIATT
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Rohrlick, Paula
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 2002
Previous Article:Many, Paul. Walk away home.
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