Book: Babyface

Author: Norma Fox Mazer

Cover Illustrator: Michael Deas

Publisher: Harcourt Paperbacks, reissued in 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0688087524 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0688087523 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0152062774 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0152062777 Paperback

Language level: 3

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 12 and up

Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Mazer, Norma Fox.   Babyface (published in 1990 by William Morrow and Company Inc., a division of The Hearst Corporation, 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY  10019).  Fourteen-year-old Toni Chessmore lives in the small town of Ridgewood with her parents, Harold and Violet, and cat Paws, next door to her best friend Julie Jenson whose parents are Steve and Jerrine and whose younger sister is Heather.  Toni has always felt that her life has been lucky with perfect parents and the best friend possible.  However, her luck begins to change the summer following her fifteenth birthday.  Julie’s parents, who have always fought, talk about separating.  Steve goes off on a motorcycle trip to Alaska, and Jerrine takes Julie and Heather to spend the whole summer with Julie’s Aunt Wendy in California.  Then Toni’s father suffers a near-fatal heart attack and must go away for rehab, so Toni is sent to New York City to stay with her older sister by fifteen years, Martine, who has always seemed so cold and indifferent.

While Toni is there, Martine reveals a devastating secret about her parents’ past, and Toni, disillusioned, decides that the whole family has been living a lie that began before she was born.  What is this shocking secret?  How will it affect Toni and her relationship to her parents?  And what will she do about it?  Several references to smoking occur.  Of course, smoking is an important factor in Harold’s heart attack, but Julie also takes it up supposedly in preparation for becoming an actress.  Some typical public school boy-girl activities are mentioned, such as being in love and kissing, as Toni and Julie seem to vie for affection from the same boy, L. R. Faberman.  There is actually a good story here that illustrates how to deal, or not deal as the case may be, with family skeletons in the closet, and with changes in friendships.

However, some parents may want to know that the “h” and “d” words are used somewhat liberally, along with some common childish slang terms for certain bodily functions and other near-vulgarisms.  At the same time, when Toni writes Julie about her father’s heart attack, she asks Julie to pray for him.  Some might wonder why the secret Toni learned was such a big deal, and readers may tend to be a bit hard on her attitude at first, but anyone can still relate to the resentment which it causes when she realizes that some aspects of her “perfect” life are not what she thought they were.   The ending is hopeful, and everything finally works out as Toni deals openly and honestly with her issues so that she can start to accept and forgive.  Author Norma Fox Mazer won a Newbery Honor Book award for her After the Rain.

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