By Andrew McCarthy
260 pp. Algonquin. $17.95.
(Ages 12 and up)
Women who came of age watching John Hughes movies hold a special place in their hearts for McCarthy, a.k.a. the sensitive dreamboat Blane in "Pretty in Pink." Now a well-regarded travel writer, TV director and occasional actor, he has published his first novel — and it's fantastic, even if you're too young to have given a hoot about those twinkly eyes of his. Lucy Willows, who's 15, learns she has an 8-year-old half brother living right in her New Jersey town, the result of a brief affair her father had. Outraged by her father's betrayal and furious at her mother's seeming complacence, she hops a train, landing unannounced at the Maine home of her grandfather, a man she's met exactly once before.
The story's unexpected turns will keep readers rapt, and Lucy's voice — reserved, blunt, sarcastic — feels as bone true as that of any Y.A. character in recent memory. McCarthy has real insight into the way adolescents withdraw emotionally, wrapping themselves in protective cocoons of silence. He captures that fleeting moment when a teenager knows she's doing something stupid but can't help herself. "The worse I felt, the more difficult it was to respond to him," she says of her boyfriend, a decent guy she cuts off without explanation. It's a debut as stark and striking as the Maine landscape.