Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack by M. E. Kerr

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Despite its deliberately misleading title, Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack belies classification as a trendy and sensational novel of the 1970s, a decade when public outcry against drug use among youth began to surface in strength. The primary subject of the novel is not drug use, but rather the problems in human relationships that adolescents seek to escape, sometimes through self-destructive behavior. As such, the novel ranges far beyond a simplistic morality tale about the danger of drugs.

Rather than advising readers to "just say no" to escapist behavior, the novel seems to suggest that deliberate self-evaluation and constructive communication with others may make life more meaningful. Combining humor and poignancy, Kerr creates complex adolescent characters such as Susan "Dinky" Hocker and P. John Knight, whose eccentricities reveal their burgeoning talents and deep insecurities. Her sensitive treatment of love also departs from the stereotypical "boy meets girl" story to show how the troubled but steadily blossoming relationship between Tucker and Natalia is not based solely upon mere physical attraction but instead develops out of trust, companionship, and deep emotional need. Moreover, even though there is clear conflict between parents and children, Kerr's adults are not simply one-dimensional villains present only to challenge youthful spirit.

Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack is, at its most basic level, a book about maturity. Although dating, overeating, and parental pressure are essential parts of the plot, Kerr skillfully establishes these dilemmas within more permanent situations, involving choices that human beings will face throughout life. Kerr's gift lies in her ability to plumb adolescence's depths while guiding young adult readers through the threshold into adulthood.