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Jailbait    by Leslea Newman order for
by Leslea Newman
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2005 (2005)
*   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Andrea (Andi) Robin Kaplan has no friends except for a bovine named Bessie, whom she visits with each day during her walk home from school. At fifteen she is in the 10th grade, overweight, considers herself 'not beautiful', and just wants to make it through high school. She is teased by classmates, especially obnoxious jock Donald Caruso, who calls her 'Dee Dee' because of her well-developed breasts. Andi's monologue narration is set in the 1970s, in the suburbs of Long Island where 'nothing happens' and one house looks like the next. Brother Mike is away at college. Her 'Parental Units' are Shirley, a sort-of socialite, and Fred, a dentist. Shirley never cooks other than warming up a TV dinner, and Andi has to prepare Fred's dinner.

Walking home, Andi notices a Volkswagen Bug, and she and the owner wave to each other. One day, he pulls over, Andi gets in the car, and she and Frank go for a ride, entering an empty model house. She tells him her name is Vanessa, as she hates the name Andrea. Frank does not reveal his age, but is much older than she is. His mood changes from one moment to the next, from sweet to sour, but Andi is in love. Frank buys her outfits to wear at the model home - black and red lingerie, and a maid's outfit. They meet almost every day, with increasing intimacy. Frank eventually suggests that they run away to another State where statutory rape will not be an issue. The chosen day arrives, Andi waits and waits, and Frank never shows up. But a car pulls over, and Frank's friend Lloyd introduces himself. Frank sent a note, 'Dear Vanessa, Happy birthday ... and congratulations. You're not jailbait anymore.'

Leslea Newman is noted for her boundary-breaking stories, as in this one, dealing with statutory rape. She writes through Andi - we get a good picture of her character, school and home life, but learn little about Frank. And though Andi supposedly learned something when Lloyd showed up in place of Frank, the story's ending unfortunately leaves the reader falling off a cliff and stranded in mid-air.

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