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The Queen of Second Place    by Laura Peyton Roberts order for
Queen of Second Place
by Laura Peyton Roberts
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Planning to catch the heart of new student Kevin Matthews, Cassie Howard muses, 'I believe in soul mates, and I 'definitely' believe in love at first sight. I ought to. I have enough practice.' However, there's one major obstacle - the perfect Sterling Carter (aka Fourteen-Karat) is her competition. In a sixth 'detention essay' for her teacher, Mrs. Conway, Cassie writes, 'I honestly believe that every human being on earth is born with one special gift. The problem is, not all talents are created equal ... My talent is coming in second.'

Cassie officially meets Kevin by accidentally running into him as she jogs to her locker - her hopes soar as she realizes he knows her by name! Mrs. Conway teams Kevin and Cassie as class-project partners to write a one-act play. Cassie's in seventh heaven until she sees Sterling and Kevin together at the library. She has to speed up her plans, if she expects to get Kevin to ask her to the annual winter formal. But Mom reminds Cassie about falling for a guy too fast, considering she's batted zero with past boy+friend relationships.

On the home scene is eighth-grade brother Trevor. They fight for time on the only computer, insult each other constantly, and brother blackmails sister with a recording of a telephone conversation between Cassie and her best-friend Hayley. That tape in hand, Trevor convinces Cassie to drive dad's vehicle (even though she doesn't have a license). Soon, besides being on Mrs. Conway's detention list for weeks, Cassie is grounded at home. As further incidents go haywire, Cassie's attempts to repair them make matters worse, innocent ploys snowball and lead to major consequences.

Laura Peyton Roberts has a talent for phrasing and imaginative/real-life happenings, in portraying the ups and downs of a teen's life. Though the second place theme is not new, its special touches make The Queen of Second Place stand-out from the crowd. Cassie has plenty of gumption, innovation, humor, spirit, energy, yet learns with hard knocks that she at times makes the wrong choices.

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