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Monday, April 18, 2011

Beyond Blonde, written by Teresa Toten. Penguin, 2010. $14.00 ages 12 and up

"After one more smother hug
for the road, I was off. "Even zo
it's for sure zer stupid fault," she
called from the doorway, "you
must cut some slacks for zem."
"You mean, cut them some slack!"
I yelled from the sidewalk.
"Zat is vat I said!" she yelled back.

In this third and final installment of the Blonde trilogy Sophie Kandinsky is sixteen and her world has changed drastically. Her beloved Papa leaves home to find sobriety, her Mama avoids people and talk about her husband's absence by hiding away and crying in her room, her first love Luke is forced to marry his pregnant other girlfriend and the highly annoying David Walter is going to help coach the basketball team to a better-than-last-year season. Sophie does not like the cocky, intrusive David and doesn't mind telling everyone. She sees her place on the team as her only stability in an otherwise pretty unstable world.

What about the Blondes and her Aunties, you ask? Well, they are right there holding her up, and helping her to make sense of the many physical and emotional catastrophes that besiege her. They also share their secrets and offer up some humor and much love. What more can a girl ask?

The sensitive and sparkling characters who have peopled this welcome and entertaining trilogy maintain the authentic voice and captivating spirit that have inspired readers since Me and the Blondes made its debut in 2007. The 1970s were never so engaging. Sophie's Croatian immigrant family remain strong and eccentric:

"Mama was the muted one in a bright Pepto-Bismol pink "almost Chanel" suit that she saved for closing real estate deals. The Aunties never went anywhere without full armour: hair teased and sprayed, makeup blazing, girdles girdling, and billowing silk outfits meant to dazzle, if not blind, all potential opponents."

That is how they 'inconspicuously' attend their first AA meeting, in an attempt to understand Papa's demons and to offer help.

And the Blondes?

"Madison came back from somewhere called the Lake District in England. Kit returned from spending the summer at her mother's place in Berkeley, California. And, although Sarah stayed around, she'd been consumed by the birth of a brand-new baby sister, the fifth blonde, blue-eyed girl in the Davis family collection."

They are back to school, to basketball, to parties, to boyfriends and to the many other dramas that are part of their high school social scene. But, they are true to each other and endlessly supportive. The Aunts and the Blondes are absolute proof that having good friends and great relatives is a powerful thing. Oh, and they offer fun along life's path. Funny, sad and unforgettable! If you have not yet met these wonderful people, take a weekend and get to know them well. It will definitely be worth the ride!

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