Select one of the keywords
Playing It Cool    by Joaquin Dorfman order for
Playing It Cool
by Joaquin Dorfman
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2006 (2006)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Just ask and Sebastian Montero will help any friend - or a friend of a friend - to solve a dilemma, whether over a matter of minutes or days. Of course, the good deeds invoke returned favors. Best friend, eighteen-year-old Jeremy King, needs Sebastian's assistance, as Jeremy's mom told him that the father he has known since birth is not his biological father. Bastian steps up to the plate and tracks down Jeremy's bio dad. But, Jeremy's patience begins to run thin as Sebastian is helping quite a few others, too.

Bastian has arranged a date between Cesar and Nicole in a local restaurant - and the owner has agreed it will be au gratis with Sebastian's promise to write a favorable review in the next edition of the Durham Observer. Cesar is outfitted to the 'T' as Jeremy's mom owns a menswear store and does not want her husband to find out that he is not Jeremy's real father. The phone rings with a plea for help from Jenny Inverso, whose brother Paul is on the roof threatening to jump - and he'll only talk to Sebastian. Their parents will be arriving home soon, and if they see Paul on the roof, he will be institutionalized. Jenny is a wannabe actress with a closet full of costumes - Bastian borrows one for Paul, who will enter the medical clinic as a delivery rep. There, fifteen-year old Sara Shaw has had an abortion. She awaits Sebastian's aide, unable to leave because her mother is in a protest crowd outside the building. Paul enters the clinic in disguise, and Sara exits in the same outfit.

Sebastian and his single parent Mom have a solid relationship. He has never known who his dad is. Jeremy is understandably nervous about meeting his bio dad. To relieve Jeremy's tension, Sebastian has come up with a plan to switch identities. The father, Dromio Johansson, owns the Blue Paradise restaurant in Wilmington, NC. Dromio has many friends, whom he assists in one way or another. Sebastian, now pretending to be Jeremy, recognizes that Dromio is just like him - continually helping people. Based on the similarities Sebastian has noted between himself and Dromio, as well as a connection to a basketball team, he begins to think Dromio might be his father too. Dromio's philosophy is, 'The way you make your eggs scrambled, sunny side up ... is the way you make your life ... You put all you've got into it, everything you see before you. And, boom, life is an adventure.'

Joaquin Dorfman has written an immensely poignant debut novel. Playing It Cool is written with a complex sense of emotion in effective staccato dialog, centering on a strong protagonist. In an Epilogue, Sebastian reveals, 'that night my mother and I sat down for a chat. Cleared the air as best we could. My mistakes in exchange for the lies about my father. It was as good a place as any to start ... I slowly curtailed my services to those who asked for them ... The house of cards I had built on favors for others came crashing down ... and I moved forward'. Dorfman has written a story that dwells in your mind long after the book is closed, and you've walked away from the ending. Joaquin Dorfman is a tremendous talent, sure to be heard from again.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Teens books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews