3 out of 4 stars
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Lovely Rita by Randall Blair is a coming of age novel, starring Clark Westfield, an emotionally repressed teenager. Clark’s twin, Sarah is the opposite personality. Outgoing and dramatic, she has been chosen as the lead in the school play. The one point of commonality between the twins is the Westfield family tradition of packing up and moving every summer, due to their father’s career. Clark handles this upset by staying on the sidelines, purposefully not involving himself in friendships or school athletics.
Rita, the book’s namesake, is the result of a brief love union between Mr. Westfield and a British singer. Of course, the Westfield family (not even Mr. Westfield) has no idea that Rita exists, until she lands on their doorstep looking for “Mr. John Westfield…I believe he is my father.” This serves a mighty shock to the entire family. However, over the next several weeks Rita becomes an integral part of their lives. As an “outsider,” Rita provides a unique perspective and becomes a sounding board to each member of the family. From Mr. and Mrs. Westfield, to the twins, each person has their individual struggles and fears. Can Rita bring healing to the family, or are some issues too hard to manage?
Lovely Rita provides both the action needed to propel a story forward plus the “secret” knowledge of characters thoughts and emotions. I found it easy to read. The brilliance of the author’s style lies in the reader’s full understanding of each character. What makes Clark happy or sad? What does he think about in his spare time? What about the girl he has a crush on? The characters’ actions are a natural outflow of their thoughts.
After singing all the praises of this sweet story, the one thing I found somewhat disturbing is the overemphasis on sex. The young people are all obsessed with sex. Clark is the epitome of naivety. He has no idea what sex even is or what one is supposed to do. Rita has had the most experience of the three, but even she is struggling to relate sex with love. Does “love” equal “sex”? Should one expect more out of a relationship? Although I realize that sex is in the front of young people’s thoughts, I would have liked to see more of the general relationship building and less of a sexual emphasis throughout.
I like the plot; I love the characters. My gauge for what I find appropriate for a young person is my own children. I would not wish my young teenage boy to read this book. I feel people who do not mind reading this type of material would enjoy Lovely Rita very much. I do send a note of caution for those who would be offended. As such, I will give this 3 out of 4 stars.
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