Kerr, M.E. What Became of Her. Harper, 2002. ISBN 978-0064472104 256 pp. $
In Kerr’s twelfth novel, narrator Edgar befriends Julie, the desperate-to-be-liked adopted niece of the town’s eccentric Queen of Greed. Mrs. Slaymaster is a landowner who carries around a leather doll dressed in designer duds (the doll, Peale, is said to be a good luck charm). Edgar and Julie pal around with socially eccentric buddy Neil, forming tight threesome. When Edgar finds an old diary or Mrs. Slaymaster, he discovers the secrets of her unhappy childhood, and discovers how past shapes the present and future.
As, Julie, Neal and Edgar speculate on their own futures, they learn the outcome is never what you expect or plan for. Julie, a dramatic “spiller” believes that the “dude with a scythe” has an appointment with everyone, and you never know when your number will be up, a theory that will no doubt appeal as much as the sprinklings of poetry and pop culture.
Fans of Kerr will recognize the familiar themes in the struggles between the haves and the have-nots, the interwoven stories of two generations, and the cruelty of children (and teens) to their peers. As in her other novels, Kerr has fun playing with names here too: the town of Serenity is anything but, the Slaymaster estate is nicknamed Danger; Sonny is a father; and most characters.
The cover art is disappointing. Although the background photo of a valley with a shining estate at the top of a hill is beautifully colored, the superimposed image of Julie doesn’t match up with her description in the book. Teens who can keep up with the various characters and each one’s significance will be rewarded for their efforts when it all comes together in the final chapters; a hasty sketch of who’s who may be in order. A must have if you are a Kerr fan.