Second Star to the Right Summary
by Deborah Hautzig

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Second Star to the Right Summary

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Second Star to the Right is about the complex love between a parent and a child. In an age when most books for the young adult are focusing on aspects of an abused or neglected child, this book shows what happens when the love of a mother becomes too encompassing. Leslie Hiller loves her mother, but she never seems to be able to enjoy that love; instead, she always feels guilty for something she has thought about or for something she has not thought to do. Leslie and her mother love each other "to the moon and back," but this love leaves Leslie empty and guilty.

Leslie is always trying to figure out what will make her happy, while at the same time keeping her image as the perfect child intact for her mother's friends. She is a fourteen-year-old girl who says that she loves to break rules. "It was a lot easier not doing what I was supposed to do than trying to figure out what I really wanted." However, Leslie never breaks a rule that might disappoint her mother. She will wear the wrong color socks with her school uniform and feel satisfied, but panics if she gets a "C" on an exam, and will work very hard to bring the grade up before the time of report cards. Leslie's love for living free of rules is hampered by her fear of disappointing her mother. She could not stand the thought of seeing disappointment etched in her mother's face. The spontaneous nature of Leslie's personality— the wanting to do what makes her feel good—is smothered by the need to be the perfect little girl.

The ultimate love that Leslie appears to be striving for is the love demonstrated by her mother's cousin, Margolee, who died in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Leslie is raised with many horror stories about the destruction and the torture of her mother's family in the concentration camps, but the strength and the courage of her namesake, Margolee, appears to take on a life of its own. Margolee was in the same line as her own mother as they moved toward the Nazi German soldiers. The individuals in their line were sent either to the left or to the right. Those sent to the left were too old or too sick to work and were put to death immediately; those sent to the right got the chance to stay alive. Margolee was sent to the right and her mother to the left; Margolee chose to go to the gas chamber with her mother so that she would not die alone. Leslie often thinks about what choice she would make if asked.

On the surface, Leslie and Mrs. Hiller appear to have a good relationship. Mrs. Hiller is very interested in everything that Leslie is doing or thinking of doing. When Leslie returns from the dance when she meets Avram Werner, her mother is talking on the telephone with her best friend Judy. As Leslie is telling her about the evening, Mrs. Hiller is getting more and more excited as she repeats and relives the story for Judy. It was as if Mrs. Hiller had gone to the...

(The entire section is 813 words.)