Do-over: a novel /

Author Vail, Rachel.
Language English
New York: Orchard Books, 1992


Thirteen-year-old Whitman has to deal with the anger he feels towards his father when his parents separate, his own interest in several girls, and the heady feeling of acting in his first play.

Subjects :

  • Fiction
  • Fathers and sons

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Author Illustrator(s) :

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Best Books :

  • Booklist Book Review Stars, Aug. 1992 American Library Association
  • Booklist Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 1992 American Library Association
  • Bulletin Blue Ribbons, 1992 Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
  • Kirkus Book Review Stars, 1992
  • YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 1993 American Library Association

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Awards, Honors & Prizes :

  • Young Adult Book Award, 1995 Winner Pennsylvania

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Reading Measurement Programs:

Orchard Books (New York:) 1992.

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Upper Grade
Book Level 3.7
Accelerated Reader Points 4

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Reviews :

Stephanie Zvirin (Booklist, Aug. 1992 (Vol. 88, No. 22))
Do-overs may be fine in a game of one-on-one, but life isn't that simple. That's what Vail reminds us in this funny, poignant novel, a sort of flip-side companion to last year's Wonder . Astute but bewildered Whitman Levy narrates, providing a totally beguiling view of a nice boy's first crush, first kiss, first heartbreak, and first real boy-girl relationship. But there's a lot more to Whit than raging hormones. His family life's a mess: his older sister's always with her boyfriend; his mom hides her emotional stress by cleaning the house and cuddling her beagle; and his dad's either angry or distracted. It's the chaotic family of Whit's best friend, Doug, that comforts Whit and makes him laugh. And it's Whit's role in the school play that keeps him going while his family falls apart and, later, when he discovers his dad is sleeping with his drama teacher. "I hate you," Whit cries to his father in one visceral scene. Despite his sensitivity, though, Whit's no idealized kid. He forges the signature of his buddy's mom on a class paper and dumps his new girlfriend when his old one beckons. But Superman bed sheets still make him feel safe; he confronts his buddy about behaving like a racist; and he thinks carefully before choosing his next girl. Vail's dialog is sharp and genuine--from Whit's self-conscious "will you go out with me?" speech and his embarrassed responses to a girl's teasing questions about his body hair, to his warm and comical exchanges with Doug's mischievous four-year-old brother, "Hello, you big naked." The guilt and anger kids often feel when their parents split is woven into the story, as is the angst that comes with puberty--Whit needs his backpack to hide his "stiffy." But Vail is never heavyhanded, and there's no quick-fix for Will and his dad to spoil things. It's always wonderful when an author can write with as much ease and vitality about boys as about girls, and Vail certainly proves she can do that here. But what will count most with readers is Vail's remarkable talent for capturing so perfectly the pleasure and pain of being thirteen--in a real kids' world. Category: For the Young. 1992, Orchard/Richard Jackson, $14.95 and $14.99. Gr. 5-9. Starred Review.
(PUBLISHER: Orchard Books (New York:), PUBLISHED: c1992.)

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1992)
The author of Wonder (1991) presents another perceptive story about kids in the same junior high. Here, she focuses on eighth-grader Whitman Levy, just beginning to be preoccupied by his potential with girls when his parents decide to split up. First glimpsed in a comical opening scene in a closet with popular Sheila during a party game, he's unsure "how you get started"; he's also good friends with nice, bright Andi, who is black, but ends up with irrepressible Owen, his wife in the school production of Bye, Bye Birdie. Meanwhile, best friend Doug slights Andi in another kissing game but, though Doug's racism deeply distresses Whit, he never quite realizes that nice Mackey is actually becoming a better friend. More distressing, Dad starts an affair with Liz, attractive young director of the play. Still, Whit is ready to meet Dad halfway when he tries to make peace, as he did with Doug; and in the midst of performing his big scene on stage, he has an epiphany: he may not he able to turn the world back like Superman, but he's still empowered: "I could screw up or I could he amazing, and there's no turning back, no do-overs. It felt like flying." As she did so skillfully in Wonder, Vail enriches an accessible story with sharply observed characters, especially a likable protagonist who confronts the complicated task of growing up with humor, intelligence, and good will. 1992, Orchard, $14.95; PLB $14.99. Starred Review. © 1992 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
(PUBLISHER: Orchard Books (New York:), PUBLISHED: c1992.)

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
The star of this fresh and appealing slice of junior high school life, eighth grader Whitman Levy, appeared briefIy in Vail's first book, Wonder. Here Whit must work through some of life's thornier issues--including his parent's separation and the discovery that his best friend is a bigot. A brief and rather superficial romance with popular Sheila leaves Whit prepared for a real relationship--one based on friendship as well as attraction. That Whit's life is complicated no one will deny, but the breezy narrative, combined with large doses of authentic preteen jocularity, deftly keeps this material from devolving into a whiny problem novel. The honest language never seems out of place coming from an eighth grader--yet it is powerful enough to create a world as richly textured as it is believable. One measure of the success of Vail's well-characterized novel: readers can sense that life goes on here even after the book is closed. Ages 11-up. (Sept.)
(PUBLISHER: Orchard Books (New York:), PUBLISHED: c1992.)

Roger Sutton (The Bulletin of the Center for ChildrenÂ’s Books, December 1992 (Vol. 46, No. 4))
Whitman Levy, who had a cameo role in Vail's terrific first novel Wonder (BCCB 9/91), seems always to be looking for a "do-over," a second chance, whether it's a disputed basketball point, a confrontation with his unhappy parents, or a conversation with a girl. Whit is going through a whole slew of eighth-grade troubles, including the offer of his first Drink: "Just Say No, I thought. Or Just Do It. Which? Don't think. Either just say no or just do it, but either way, don't think about it." He Just Does It, and soon after has his first French kiss, which is greeted with less than enthusiasm by girlfriend Sheila: "It was like a live fish in my mouth! Ew!" Vail catches all the sharp edges as well as all the blunt talk of junior high life; unlike Betsy Byars' Bingo Brown, Whit never seems filtered through the perceptions of a wiser adult. Vail's as nervy as Judy Blume, tossing off references to adolescent "stiffies," confronting junior-high racism, and facing the realities of divorce, including Whit's father's affair with one of Whit's teachers. When asked by his concerned dad if there is "anything he can do," Whit replies with anguished aplomb, "You can stop screwing the drama teacher, for one." But Vail is funnier than Blume, and more moving, partly because of her natural ear for teenaged talk and partly because she never, ever preaches. This is the real thing. R*--Highly recommended as a book of special distinction. (c) Copyright 1992, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1992, Jackson/Orchard, 143p, $14.99 and $14.95. Grades 5-8.
(PUBLISHER: Orchard Books (New York:), PUBLISHED: c1992.)

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Publication Details:

  Publisher ISBN Notes
New York: Orchard Books, 1992

Media Type: Language Material
143 p. ;
PZ7.V1916 ([Fic])
"A Richard Jackson book"-Half t.p.

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