by Heather Cochran
When bad-boy actor Joshua Reed is nabbed for drunk driving, his punishment is 90 days of house arrest—in the West Virginia home of the 25-year-old president of his fan club, Leanne Gitlin. Starting with this whimsical premise, Mean Season deftly swings between the comedic living situation and some serious undercurrents: "the strange run-ins that can alter everything in the blink of an eye, or the shift of a single season." Joshua and Leanne fight and flirt, but she is also forced to deal with the death of her father, the disappearance of one brother and the disabling football accident of another. Meanwhile she reheats her schoolgirl crush on Max, a handsome Winn-Dixie employee Joshua's pals threaten to steal away from her by sending him to L.A. for a screen test.
Unlike most plucky-heroine stories, this first novel has considerable emotional heft that works seamlessly with the comic relief. The pathos never gets too unwieldy or the humor too frivolous. Whether describing a passionate first kiss or a fatal tragedy, Cochran makes this story sing.