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Bradford, Karleen
Toronto, HarperCollins, 1994. 135pp, galley, ISBN 0-00-647943-X (paper) $10.00
ISBN 0-00-224367-9 (cloth) 517.00. CIP

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14

Reviewed by Margaret Mackey

Volume 22 Number 6
1994 November / December

Kate has a hard life, working at her parents' rural gas station/snack bar and dealing with her father's alcoholism and her mother's receding grasp on reality. To compensate, Kate lives in a dream world making up stories, which her teacher criticizes for being too unlikely.

Real life takes its revenge when Kate is accosted in the snack bar by a boy who claims to have a knife. Kate persuades him that what he needs is a square meal and helps him to find local employment. When a series of local robberies begins and eventually culminates in murder, she wonders if she has made a terrible mistake. To complicate matters, she has fallen for this strange boy.

The "thirteenth child" of the title is the story-telling child, but the theme has an intermittent role in this mystery romance. Kate turns to stories when she is under pressure, but often she is too busy dealing with customers and with the obligatory element of two boys with whom she is friendly.

The plotting is tight and the reactions of the characters are believable for the most part. The snack bar setting is the best part of the book. This book is likely to be popular with junior high girls in particular.

Margaret Mackey is a Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta.

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