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Books in Brief: P.S. Be Eleven; If You Were Here


P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams Garcia; Amistad/Harper Collins, 272 pages ($16.99). Ages 8 to 12.


Three sisters experience culture shock upon their return to Brooklyn after a life-changing visit to Oakland, Calif., with their mother, a poet, during the turbulent 1960s in this fine sequel to Newbery Honor book, “One Crazy Summer.” (The title comes from her mother’s repeated admonitions in her letters to Delphine, the oldest of the girls at 11, not to grow up too fast.) Delphine, Vonetta and Fern return from a summer with the mother they hardly knew to their home in Brooklyn where they live with their grandmother (a conservative lady who is constantly reminding them not to create “a grand Negro spectacle”) and their father to discover that he has a new lady friend and is planning to marry her. The chief drama in the book revolves around the girls’ newfound love for the Jackson Five, their quest to raise the money to buy tickets to see the group at Madison Square Garden and the return of their beloved Uncle Darnell, a changed man at only 19, from Vietnam. As the first book was, this is a poignant, often funny coming-of-age snapshot of Delphine, as well as a vivid portrait of the African-American experience.

– Jean Westmoore


If You Were Here by Alafair Burke; Harper, 368 pages ($25.99).


A person’s disappearance haunts her family and friends for decades. What causes someone to decide to leave his or her life, to leave behind everything – and everyone – that they once cherished? Alafair Burke builds on that question in her suspenseful “If You Were Here.”

It’s been years since journalist McKenna Jordan thought of her friend Susan Hauptmann, a once promising West Point grad who disappeared more than a decade ago. Since then, McKenna’s life has taken many turns: She is happily married with a new career writing for a magazine. But her once promising career with the district attorney’s office ended when she incorrectly accused a cop of planting a gun. McKenna’s sadness about her missing friend reignites when she works on a story about a teenager rescued from subway tracks by a woman. The video footage is grainy but McKenna believes that the heroine is her long-vanished friend Susan. Burke draws on her own background as a professor of criminal law at Hofstra Law School to make the legal aspects of “If You Were Here” exciting and fresh.

– Oline Cogdill, Orlando Sun Sentinel