M. E. Kerr 1928(?)–
(Pseudonym of Marijane Meaker) American novelist. Although she has only been writing young adult fiction since 1972, Kerr has firmly established herself as one of that genre's most popular authors. Her novels explore such contemporary topics as breaking free from parental guidance and misguidance and the recognition and acceptance of human fallibility. These concerns are presented with poignancy and humor, in novels that have been praised for their credibility and relevance. Some critics, however, look with disfavor on Kerr's contemporaneity, accusing her of superficiality with trendy plots and flippant dialogue. Kerr began her literary career as a mystery writer for adults, publishing her first mystery novel, Whisper His Sin, under the name Vin Packer, the first of several pseudonyms she has used. While writing steadily, Kerr began to teach creative writing on a volunteer basis at Manhattan's Central High. The background and characters in her first young adult novel, Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!, were based on this experience. She discovered the stimulus for her latest novel, Gentlehands, in her brother, a former World War II Navy pilot and Vietnam veteran who had difficulty in readjusting to peacetime. In an area where authors often stereotype teenagers' concerns, Kerr is noteworthy for her presentation of realistic situations and responses.
Don't be put off by the title [Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!]; this is not another anti-drug sermon and in fact Dinky does not shoot smack nor is she about to; she only makes the announcement, in Day-Glo graffiti throughout her Brooklyn Heights "community," so that her do-gooding mother who's into rehabilitating addicts will give her some attention. Refreshingly the only junkie in the cast is not a straw heavy constructed to bear the cautionary burden of pity or scorn, but a credible, humorously immature minor character—and an even greater relief from recent YA typecasting is the brilliant, fiercely reactionary P. John Knight, maligned by all the liberal Heights parents who should be pondering his favorite quotation, "don't understand me too quickly." Mrs. Hocker, who sabotages P. John's relationship with the overweight Dinky and his attempts to help her get thin, is in fact the only heavy here, but if mother's smug insensitivity is a little thick she's real enough to rouse your fury all the same. Dinky herself is a troubled girl who is never at a loss for flip and brittle words ("the meek inherit the shaft," she tells a black child she's working with at her mother's neighborhood center), and her friend Tucker who tells the story has some wry lines and risibly recognizable problems of his own. Unlike the tiresome bulk of Now novels, this view of the contemporary scene … is neither hostile nor hortatory nor exploitative. Instead Kerr's honesty, evident respect and consistently on-target wit will keep Dinky's and Tucker's contemporaries laughing and nodding agreement. (pp. 1152-53)
Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1972 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), October 1, 1972.