When Ken Corbin tries to tell people that a homeless man who is living in a vacant lot has been made the victim of a malicious switch, nobody believes the introverted, epileptic teen, who uncovers a web of lies and betrayal.
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An epileptic teenager struggles with his disease and the kidnapping of an acquaintance, ... la Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, in this sobering mystery from McColley (Sun Dance, 1995, etc.). Ken, 17, has a hard life with his illness, and has other, related, problems: The family subsists on his mother's wages, and his smug half-brother, Leo, taunts him over the expense of Dilantin, Ken's anti-seizure medication, which he has stopped taking. In grueling passages that highlight Ken's coping skills, McColley limns the drug's side effects: Ken's gums swell painfully, and he has crippling bouts of diarrhea. When Ricky, a homeless drifter Ken had befriended, disappears, another man appears, claiming to be him, and exactly recalling conversations he and the boy have had. Ken succumbs to self-doubt--did he have a seizure that is making his mind play tricks on him?--and then becomes determined to solve the riddle; the first step is to take his medication regularly. When he discovers a ``switch,'' Ken quietly and thoroughly punishes the culprits. His subsequent epiphany that he overstepped his bounds is too easy; Ken gains confidence, but is more alone than ever. The book is overwritten and often turgid (``the heat's thickness was lessening as the evening grew''), with a recurring metaphor about half-brothers (``like ice cream and cow manure, they came from the same place, but it was best not to find them together'') that does not improve with repetition. A dank tale, admirable in its attempt to portray epilepsy realistically, but otherwise awkward and impossible to enjoy. (Fiction. 12+) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From School Library Journal:
Grade 9 Up. Conflicts abound for Ken, a 17-year-old whose grand mal epileptic seizures are controlled by Dilantin?when he takes it. His half-brother, Leo, home from the Navy, belittles him, laying a guilt trip on him about all the money their hard-working single mom spends for his medical treatment. Ken is attracted to Mariah, but she's already seeing Sam, a former car thief/mechanic who aspires to country-music stardom. Ken is convinced that Ricky, a bum who shows up in their small, southeastern Minnesota town, has been switched, that he's not the same man he'd met the day before, but no one believes him. Ken discovers several mysterious clues, including a cassette tape of his conversation with Ricky. By the time Ken divines that the switch (kidnapping) is rooted in Leo and Ricky's hash-smuggling enterprise undertaken when they were both in the Navy, Ken's only desire is for personal revenge. This cynical conclusion is as unsatisfying for readers as it is for the protagonist, leaving no character edified. Even Mom, whose suffering both boys profess to want to alleviate, loses her dream of Leo's college career as he reenlists in the Navy, presumably to smuggle more drugs. Mystery fans in a dark mood may appreciate the stylishly written and convincing descriptions of Ken's seizures as well as his fantasylike escape into drawing, but they are about all that enlighten this otherwise bleak tale of sibling hate, sex, lies, and audiotape.?Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Jr. High School, Iowa City, IA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 1997. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0689811225