Close Enough to Touch by Richard Peck

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Close Enough to Touch presents a brief journey from loss to recovery and renewal narrated by Matt Moran, a seventeen- year-old high school junior in the Chicago suburbs, whose girlfriend, Dory Gunderson, has died suddenly and unexpectedly of an aneurysm. In Matt's present-tense narrative of events covering several weeks in the spring of his junior year, Peck reveals a young adult confronting not only the difficulties of loss and grief but also questions and problems involving individual identity, social class, and alienation. The narrative follows Matt as he moves from withdrawal, silence, and obsession with the memory of Dory to guilt over the wearing away of her memory and eventually to an acceptance of her loss. This development is accompanied by rejection of Dory's clique of shallow upper-middle-class friends and an awareness that he has fallen in love with a senior girl, the witty, strong-willed, and individualistic Margaret Chasen.

Peck has written that in his novels "young surrogates for the readers have to take steps nearer maturity" and that these steps "are away from the peer group." Matt Moran, by grappling with the death of Dory, distances himself from his peers and discovers where his own identity can best be defined. He moves beyond identification with groups—Dory's upper-crust friends in the posh neighborhood of Glenburnie Woods—to an ability to relate to individuals— the somewhat eccentric Margaret and the comical but affectionately portrayed football hero, Joe Hoenig. Matt's distancing himself from his suburban world allows him to recognize much of the emptiness of Dory's social sphere and consequently of Dory herself.

An astute, often witty and critical observer of life, Matt matures in his weeks of introversion and reenters his...

(The entire section is 435 words.)