From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 7 Up–Seventeen-year-old Dougie takes everything literally, lacks social graces, and is a loner, except, perhaps, for his one friend, athletic and popular Andy Morrow. But readers know almost immediately that something tragic has happened in the recent past: "Andy and I had some bad luck with fires when we were kids. We're more careful now." Other students feel threatened by Dougie's disturbing behavior and react by targeting him with cruelty and violence, which only serves to escalate his descent into unreality, isolation, and obsession. The teen has been working for nearly three years on his model railroad set, using 22,400 headless matches to build a bridge connecting portions of the "Madham Line." As his life deteriorates, this obsession and his nightly talks with Andy are the only things that keep him clinging to normalcy. He resists the help of his psychiatrist and hides his medication. Ultimately, he is forced to remember what actually happened on that fateful night. With its excellent plot development and unforgettable, heartbreaking protagonist, this is a compelling novel of mental illness.–Susan Riley, Mount Kisco Public Library, NY
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Gr. 7-10. It's hard to tell if Hautman meant this to be a mystery, but it's clear from the start that there's something not right about the relationship between narrator Doug Hanson and his best friend, Andy Morrow. Doug, a self-proclaimed nerd, is primarily interested in building a matchstick replica of the Golden Gate Bridge for his model railway town. Andy is popular, a football player and actor. But the boys live next door to each other and talk from their bedroom windows at night. In an almost robotic voice that still manages to be intensely insightful, Doug takes readers to his school, where he is mocked and eventually beaten, and to his neighborhood, where he turns into a Peeping Tom, watching school star Melanie Haver undress. Hautman does a superb job of crafting the odd sanctuary that is Doug's mind. But Doug's defenses are crumbling, and the secret he's been keeping about Andy is oozing through the cracks. The truth about Andy won't come as a surprise, but there are some unexpected plot turns here, and the chilling but ambiguous denouement
is definitely unsettling. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved