The One Where the Kid Nearly Jumps to his Death and Lands in California -- Mary Hershey

From The One Where the Kid Nearly Jumps to his Death and Lands in California:

I first became famous when I was eight years old and my dad took me skiing at Lake Rochester with his old-lady boss.  My picture was on the front page of all the newspapers for miles around.  Heck, Aunt Clem said she even caught me on the national news.  And it wasn't because I was such a hotdog skier.  The real story was that I took a dive out of the ski lift chair.  Broke my right leg so bad they had to cut it off.

It wouldn't have been such big freakin' news if it was just some poor kid falling out of a lift.  But I didn't just fall.  The newspaper said I laid a hundred-dollar bill on the kid next to me, lifted the safety bar, and then bailed out.  From forty feet.

The One Where the Kid Nearly Jumps to His Death and Lands in CaliforniaFive years have passed since the accident, and Alastair is about to see his father for the first time since the divorce.  And he isn't going for a quick visit, either -- he's leaving his mother and Colorado to live with his father and his new stepmother in the poshity-posh Lumina Beach area for the entire summer.

Alastair is a pretty good kid, but as his father hasn't seen him in five years, he has no way of knowing that.  So he decides to do his best to be a Snotty Teenager.  When he discovers that his new stepmother has not one, but two prosthetic legs, being A Beastly Teen becomes a little easier*. 

And he's discovers that he's pretty good at it.  If he didn't narrate the book, if we didn't get his perspective, he'd be pretty darn unlikeable.  But, luckily, we do get his perspective, and it's clear that obnoxiousness does not come naturally to him.  That isn't to say that he's not an Angry Young Man -- he is -- but he's not usually a Rude and Angry Young Man.

Romance with a teen soap queen, alcoholism, divorce, classism, adultery, manipulation, Big Family Drama -- take out the romance and it sounds like a recipe for a rather heavy book, no?  Luckily, Alastair's voice prevents it from ever feeling overly issue-y. 

Coach Witsak & Alastair's swim training regimen both felt very Crutcher-ish, though the book is geared younger.  I wasn't hugely bowled over, but it's a decent pick for a pretty broad audience -- kids who want to read about the effects of divorce/family drama, kids who like to read about the Rich Life, kids who like sports books, kids who just want to read about a Boy Who Figures Stuff Out.  I'd put it into the 12-up age range for mild profanity (including one appearance of the f-bomb) and Frank Talk About Adult Issues.

*Because he assumes that his father married her due to guilt about Alastair's leg.