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Reviewed by:
  • Rachel Spinelli Punched Me in the Face
  • Kate Quealy-Gainer
Acampora, Paul. Rachel Spinelli Punched Me in the Face. Roaring Brook, 2011. [176p]. ISBN 978-1-59643-548-3 $15.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4–6.

When his mother takes off, fourteen-year-old Zachary and his cop father pack up what little they own and head to the East Coast for a fresh start. As most small towns do, Falls, Connecticut offers its fair share of quirky inhabitants, from the hard-of-hearing old Polish couple that runs the local ice cream joint to the beautiful but ferocious Rachel Spinelli, who just happens to live across the street from Zachary’s new home. Despite his efforts to remain aloof, Zachary finds himself drawn to Rachel’s older brother Teddy, a developmentally challenged young man with a knack for the trumpet, Zachary’s favorite instrument. As the two bond over shared jamming sessions, Zachary learns more about Teddy and Rachel’s past and discovers that family relationships are complicated and fragile things that require constant attention and, often, forgiveness. This is a plot that could have gone wrong, but Acampora keeps the schmaltz to a minimum by providing nuanced depictions of his flawed characters. Rachel’s penchant for violence is both a weapon to use against the school kids that bully Teddy and a direct reaction to being placed in the unwanted role of her brother’s protector; Teddy himself is not some simple-minded musical genius but rather an everyday adolescent with fears, insecurities, and sometimes, a serious stubborn streak. The banter between Zachary and the Spinelli siblings is light and clever, adding a welcome note of humor to an otherwise contemplative story about loss, rejection, and trust. Fans of small-town color and happy endings will take heart in this ultimately hopeful tale. [End Page 68]



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