(Pseudonym of unidentified author) American novelist.
Arrick writes "problem novels" that focus on issues of particular concern to young adults. Arrick's protagonists are often faced with pressure from family and peers as they seek to establish their own identity. Their responses to these pressures reflect some of the more extreme measures undertaken by today's youth. For example, in Steffie Can't Come Out to Play (1978), Steffie runs away from her small-town family life in order to become a model in New York. She is victimized by a smooth-talking, well-dressed pimp who takes advantage of her naiveté and her desire for expensive clothes and leads her into prostitution. Tunnel Vision (1980) is the story of a young person's suicide. Chernowitz! (1981) depicts a Jewish boy who is harassed because of his ethnic background. In God's Radar (1983), Arrick portrays a fundamentalist Christian community in which pressure to conform to moral standards serves to control personality. Most critics agree that Arrick's books can promote discussion of difficult subjects that are relevant to young adults.
C. Nordhielm Wooldridge
[Stephanie Rudd, the protagonist of Steffie Can't Come Out to Play, runs away] from Clairton, Pennsylvania to pursue a modelling career in New York City. She can hardly believe it when the man of her dreams appears at the train station and slips a protective arm around her shoulder. "Favor" is young, handsome, rich, and one of the slickest pimps in the Big Apple…. While for the most part resisting the temptation to sensationalize, Arrick unfortunately resorts to a superman-type rescue for her protagonist: one of two cops (whose third-person account of the street scene is interspersed with Stephanie's first-person narrative) suddenly shakes off 19 years of remaining uninvolved and breaks Favor's leg in the process of convincing him to let Stephanie go. It works. Stephanie finds herself inexplicably shut out by her "daddy" and "sisters," turns to a shelter which takes in young girls in her situation, and finally goes home. Neither plot, characterization, nor writing style emerge as distinctive in any way and the message to young teens weighs a bit heavy. All told, this is a just-adequate foray into some scantily explored and decidedly rough subject territory.
C. Nordhielm Wooldridge, in a review of "Steffie Can't Come Out to Play," in School Library Journal, Vol. 25, No. 3, November, 1978, p. 72.
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[Steffie Can't Come Out to Play is the type of book] that makes evil sound like fun, not by explicit sexual detail, but by its omission.
The book's subject is that classic cliché of the country girl seduced into prostitution. The story follows the stereotype point by point….
[Fran Arrick] has tried so hard for "good taste" that she has made prostitution seem like a pleasanter way to earn a living than bagging burgers at MacDonald's. There is not one description of a sexual encounter. The weirdest behavior Steffie has to cope with is from a man who asks her to stand in front of an open window, and from another who gets his jollies from slipping her a dose of LSD. Granted, Steffie's very first experience is embarrassing because she has to approach the man; but her discomfort seems no worse than the sufferings of less sophisticated teenagers at the senior prom. On the other hand, there is lots of explicit talk of exactly how much money Steffie earns (it beats MacDonald's $2.65 an hour) and loving descriptions of the pretty clothes—silver boots, French jeans—her pimp buys her. Here is a book that would have been less problematic if it had had more sordid detail.
Patty Campbell, "Explicit Omissions," in Wilson Library Bulletin, Vol. 53, No. 4, December, 1978, p. 341.
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In this unsensationalized story of teenage prostitution, ingenuous, small-town Stephanie arrives in New York with modeling aspirations, slips inevitably into The Life, and returns home after several months, appropriately wised up and apprehensive about her future. Author Arrick has used restraint and judgment in treating such a knotty subject, but [Steffie Can't Come Out to Play] seems plotted by intent rather than by inspiration. Steffie goes through the paces, enjoying a glittery new ward robe and A-one attention from her glamorous pimp Favor, but her movements seem curiously mechanical, her experiences too carefully orchestrated…. Youngsters who look beyond the provocative jacket—Steffie, in low-cut gown and fur, leaning against an adult book store—will find a skewed but unmoralizing story with a much manipulated central figure.
A review of "Steffie Can't Come Out to Play," in Kirkus Reviews, Vol. XLVI, No. 24, December 15, 1978, p. 1361.
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[For the most part, Steffie Can't Come Out to Play] is an explicit exposé of a life of prostitution; interspersed with the episodes about Steffie are episodes about two policemen who patrol the district she's in and who—suspecting that the new girl is younger than she looks—try to find a way to help her. Fortunately for Steffie (who tells the story, save for the material about the police), she's sent to a halfway house after her pimp is hospitalized, and her parents take her home. She's still fourteen, but she's old. Candid, frightening, and poignant, the story demands credulity in Steffie's naiveté, but if the reader accepts that, her plight is believable, since the characterization and motivation are consistent.
Zena Sutherland, in a review of "Steffie Can't Come Out to Play," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Vol. 32, No. 7, March, 1979, p. 110.
(The entire section is 145 words.)
[In Tunnel Vision,] Anthony, a 15-year-old "A" student, star of his high school swim team, respected by his teachers, idolized by his friends, favored by his parents, and nicknamed Mr. Perfect by his more rebellious sister, hangs himself with his father's neckties, leaving no note. Shocked and guilty, his nearest and dearest condemn themselves for not sensing that the boy's terminal depression of several months duration was more than teenage angst. But readers will be at as much of a loss as to why this particular kid wanted to end it all…. A nice, neighborhood cop, commenting upon the statistical frequency of juvenile suicide attempts in the American small town he inhabits, attributes the phenomenon to Tunnel Vision: "It's like each of them was caught inside a tunnel and they couldn't see any end to it or anything at all outside." Not much of an explanation but it's refreshing to find a realistic problem novel that doesn't read like psychological case study. The small, linked group of people who must come to terms with the tragedy described here are likable and ordinary. They are not particularly marked for disaster. It visits them almost casually. Arrick's spare, understated handling of their struggle to come to terms with the decision of a child they all loved to leave them and life behind rings true, and should prompt some heated discussions. (pp. 119-20)
Laura Geringer, in a review of "Tunnel...
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It's all here [in Tunnel Vision]—the shock, the bewilderment, the guilt, and the anger that are the classic symptoms of the aftermath of suicide…. While the motive for Anthony's death may be obvious to readers, Arrick leaves it credibly speculative for her characters and tackles the emotionally charged subject with intensity that approaches the sensational only once—in her handling of the tangential episode of [Anthony's girlfriend] Jana's rape. Noteworthy as well is Arrick's avoidance of a completely downbeat ending—she ensures that at least some of her characters emerge from the tragedy with broadened insight and newfound inner strength. Purposeful, but skillfully and successfully so. (pp. 1355-56)
A review of "Tunnel Vision," in Booklist, Vol. 76, No. 18, May 15, 1980, pp. 1355-56.
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[Tunnel Vision is an] inoffensive but uninspired attempt to deal with teenage suicide via the reactions and memories of the parents, sister, cousins, friend, and sort-of girlfriend of a 15-year-old boy who has just hung himself…. His mother blames herself for accepting her husband's reassurances and not getting the kid to a psychiatrist. The girl blames her physical distance. (A rape victim, she's in bad shape herself.) And his sister blames their father who is preoccupied with business. Despite all their flashbacks, we never do get close to Anthony, his motives, or his personality…. Of the survivors, Arrick leaves the school-skipping, pot-smoking, burnout sister on the way to self-rehabilitation and the girlfriend able to touch the others in shared grief. None of this is lurid, but it isn't very affecting either.
A review of "Tunnel Vision," in Kirkus Reviews, Vol. XLVIII, No. 15, August 1, 1980, p. 983.
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Gail Tansill Lambert
Anthony Hamil, aged fifteen, hung himself with his father's neckties. The end of his life is the beginning of [Tunnel Vision]. Fran Arrick lets us in on the relentless horror, bewilderment, and grief suffered by members of his family and friends. The story is non-stop reading accompanied by an ache in the throat and misty eyes. (pp. 207-08)
[The] survivors are drawn together, and slowly and agonizingly share their anger and guilt along with their shock. Utterly vulnerable, they begin to see in each other and in themselves strengths and weaknesses they never looked for before.
Fran Arrick writes as if she knows her subject and characters well, and the subject matter is of particular interest these days, suicide being the second leading cause of death in American young people.
This book is recommended for parents of any age child. But for kids I worry that the ending could be construed as possibly encouraging or condoning suicide; also because the problem of guilt is dispensed with on the book jacket—"All felt to blame and none was." Blame is perhaps too harsh a word to use, but in every human relationship there are elements of imperfection that need examining and forgiveness. (p. 208)
Gail Tansill Lambert, in a review of "Tunnel Vision," in Best Sellers, Vol. 40, No. 6, September, 1980, pp. 207-08.
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Dorothy M. Broderick
When at 10 p.m. you say, I'll just read a few pages to get started and next you look up and it's midnight, it is hard to be critical of a book, and even harder to explain how so engrossing a read leaves one annoyed, frustrated and stomping around the house. The plot of Chernowitz! is the first person narration of Bobby Cherno's harassment by bully Emmett Sundback solely because Bobby is Jewish. There are name callings, a fiery cross (albeit it very small) tossed on the Cherno lawn, a swastika painted on a family car, and isolation from the other boys in the class. All because this bunch of suburban boy sheep follow blindly the leadership of an adolescent victim of child abuse by his divorced, drinking father. When Sundback injures Bobby's cat by swiping him with his motorcycle, Bobby vows revenge and sets Sundback up as a thief. True to the adolescent code, Bobby shares none of his harassment with anyone until his sense of guilt forces him to confide in his parents. The antisemitism being experienced is a personal problem and he will cope with it.
And therein lies the problem and weakness of the book. A book on such a serious problem must offer some insight into motivation, both of the victim and the victimizer. Antisemitism is not in the same category as harassment because one is too fat or too tall or too short. It is NOT a personal problem of the victim but a social problem and to treat it as less is to deny reality. Bobby is...
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[Chernowitz! is a] one-issue but lifelike and involving novel about what happens when a sadistic school bully launches a campaign against a Jewish classmate…. Sundback involves the other ninth-grade boys, so that Bobby is ostracized by all of them, and even Brian Denny greets him on the school bus with "Move over, Jew bastard, you take up too much room." This from a former best friend, and the fact that Bobby hasn't one defender, is a little hard to accept—it might be more believable if we knew something about Brian and had a glimpse of Sundback at work on the others. However, Brian's overall behavior—avoiding or taunting Bobby when with the gang, calling him as if nothing had happened when Sundback is out of town—is all too recognizable, and Arrick's general picture of mass adolescent cruelty expressed in anti-Semitism is similarly convincing…. Arrick doesn't provide much insight into the psychology or dynamics of anti-Semitic behavior, but she makes the occurrence seem appallingly possible, and she effectively fastens kids' identification on its victimized but not defeated target.
A review of "Chernowitz!" in Kirkus Reviews, Vol. XLIX, No. 22, November 15, 1981, p. 1413.
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[In Chernowitz!] Fran Arrick has written a powerful novel about prejudice…. Arrick does a fine job of describing the tiny snowball of prejudice picking up momentum and size and careening down the mountain. Bob's friends ostracize him partially out of fear that they might be Emmett's next victim.
Eventually Bob cannot stand the tormenting. He retaliates by concocting an elaborate scheme that frames the bully and gets him suspended. But such a victory is too shallow and Bob confesses to the frame-up and lets his parents and the principal know about his two years of harassment.
Upset at what's happened in her school, the principal calls an assembly. Movies of the holocaust are shown. Students are stunned by the horror, appalled at what human beings are capable of doing to one another. Bob is sickened by the films and leaves the auditorium for a drink of water. When he turns around, there stands Emmett. "Did you and your daddy set that all up for me?" he asks….
Instead of taking the easy way out and having Emmett repent, Arrick creates a far more powerful and realistic ending by leaving him unchanged. Bob realizes that there will always be Emmetts in the world, and that's worth discussing. (p. 80)
Dick Abrahamson, "New Novels That Go from Delight to Wisdom," in English Journal, Vol. 71, No. 4, April, 1982, pp. 80-3.∗...
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[In God's Radar, moving] from Syracuse to a small southern town is somewhat of a culture shock for the [Cable family]—especially for 15-year-old Roxie—but it isn't long before their neighbors, the Pregers, make them feel welcome by introducing them to the Stafford Hill Baptist Church community…. While her parents seem satisfied with Stafford Hill, Roxie isn't sure how she feels, and her struggle to sort out her confusion forms the crux of the story. Some readers will undoubtedly view the book as a judgment of fundamentalism, but the author does attempt to balance her portrait of the church. While she draws Stafford Hill members as unashamed proselytizers who lard everyday conversations with Bible verses (this includes young people as well as adults), she also emphasizes their sincerity and good works. Individual characterizations are not so evenhanded. Most supporting characters have been deliberately fashioned to express specific points of view about the church. Yet despite this lack of subtlety, Arrick has put together a compelling story, and what comes across with particular force is the frightening vulnerability of teenagers and the effect peer pressure has on their intellectual freedom.
Stephanie Zvirin, in a review of "God's Radar," in Booklist, Vol. 79, No. 20, June 15, 1983, p. 1333.
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C. Nordhielm Wooldridge
The main attraction in Roxie's new small southern town is the mammoth Stafford Hill Baptist Church, which boasts attendance of up to 4000 at prayer meetings…. [In the course of God's Radar Roxie] develops a warm relationship with Jarrell (a Stafford Hill boy labeled "wild" by the rest of the school) but she finally succumbs to the pressure and, in a trance-like state, allows herself to be spirited away to prayer meeting while Jarrell waits on a street corner. This is a scathing and highly oversimplified indictment of fundamentalist Christianity carried to a legalistic extreme. Since Arrick has already passed judgment on the issue (even at their nicest, the Baptists wear the black hats), the tension is only plot deep and fails to truly challenge readers on a moral level.
C. Nordhielm Wooldridge, in a review of "God's Radar," in School Library Journal, Vol. 29, No. 10, August, 1983, p. 72.
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