Tuesday, September 02, 2008

the center of the world by steinhofel

Phil and twin sister Diann live in a big sprawling house on the edge of a small town with their single mother. They came to Germany from America when quite small. Mom provided for them by working first part-time then full time for a lawyer in a nearby big city. She also provided advice on dating and mating and herbal remedies. The combination of weird house, herbal remedies and not living in the town gets the family labeled witches. The school in town is pretty typical of every school - with bullies and cliques and so on. Diann and Phil do not fit in at all. Mom has her own life to live and is content to watch at a distance as her children learn to handle bullies, experience various friendships and hardships. She is there if they need her but stays out of their way. Since Diann is very sensitive, almost reclusive we do not get to know her well. But Phil is the narrator and it is through his experiences that we learn about the family and watch Phil grow. Mom has a series of boyfriends, some involved with the kids, some not. This serves to further alienate her from the town folks. The twins do want to know about their American father but mom isn't talking. Diann and Phil make and lose close friends - others who do not fit in well. Phil who has been a "fairy" since a small child grows to learn what being homosexual means without having to go through much of the torment many gay kids suffer. His mother knew all along and said so be it. How wonderful to be accepted by a wise parent who knew exactly who you were. Phil deftly handles school bullies, wish I had had his abilities. Phil also learns what it means to love and be loved. The pace is slow and steady. The language lovely. Teens who enjoyed James Howe's book Totally Joe will enjoy this as well. Anyone who ever thought the world revolved around them, anyone who has ever had trouble fitting in or has thought they found true love could enjoy this fine story. JDW 9/2/08

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