Gershow, Miriam. The Local News. Spiegel & Grau, 2009. ISBN 978-0385527613 368 pp. 29.95
Danny Pasternak epitomizes the phrase “dumb jock,” but he’s attractive and popular and when he disappears after a basketball practice one summer evening, the community is in an uproar. It takes months for the search parties to wane, the memorial on the high school’s wall to come down. Lydia, his smarter and less popular sister, whom Danny alternatively and indiscriminately bullied and extended small kindnesses towards, muddles through the aftermath as the family drifts apart without their lynchpin.
This is an extremely well executed book, with distinguished writing. The plot is perfectly woven, with the drama of what happened to Lydia’s missing brother (runaway? kidnapped? foul play?) pulling the reader through the story without being over the top sensational. The voice is pitch perfect as we see everything through the lens of Lydia, now ten years older. Her recollections of the high school social structure are crystal clear and wholly believable, and events have an in the moment feel, rather than a reminiscent feel. Allusions to 1995 are mostly political/history related, as opposed to pop culture; the universality of the themes made me feel this book could be set in any time period. Characterizations are deep. Action, dialogue and detail develop each individual, and all are fully realized on the page.
The age of the protagonist during the course of the book’s events and the coming of age rituals endured in the midst of this crisis (first kiss, first house party) are tangible make this a possible recommendation for mature teen readers. Plus, the hook is great: “My brother is missing, and by the way, I don’t like him all that much.”