Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, October 1, 1999


Books written
for island youth


The Diamond Head series:
Bullet 'In Perfect Harmony,"
by P.J. Neri;
Bullet "Kimber's Cowboy," Laureen Kwock;
Bullet "Sour Notes," Michelle Calabro Hubbard;
paperback, The Bess Press; $4.96 each

By Cynthia Oi


Those of a certain age may remember the "Dick and Jane" books that helped thousands of children learn to read. But for many kids growing up in the islands, the images of apple trees, picket fences and Colonial houses were foreign and distant.

Recognizing the need for diverse views, publishers have broadened the reading experience, certainly no more so than in Hawaii.

The Bess Press has been an active dealer in presenting such material. The newest additions to its titles are a series called "Diamond Head High."

Each of the three books is written by a different author, and the stories involve a core group of teen-agers who have formed a singing group, inspired by Na Leo Pilimehana.

There is no literary pretension in the books. The plots deal simply with issues important to the books' target audiences of 11- to 14-year-olds: their looks, fitting in, jealousy, boyfriends, girlfriends and parents. Such edgier matters as sex and drug use do not enter into the mix.

The first book in the series, "In Perfect Harmony" by P.J. Neri, establishes the main characters and deals with a newcomer whose gray eyes and blonde hair sets her apart from the other kids.

The second, "Kimber's Cowboy" by Laureen Kwock, has main character Kimberly at odds with her family because of a boy "from the wrong side of the island" and her friends in the singing group.

The third, "Sour Notes" by Michelle Calabro Hubbard, is the best written of the three. The focal character, Ronni, struggles with her self-image and her summer job as a cub reporter for the Honolulu Star.

Hawaii winds through all the books. The teens eat at Zippy's, stroll under shower trees, ride past the Koolaus and look cool in OP gear. Ethnic groups are well-represented in the books, which each contain a glossary of local terminology.

The series, for the most part, will bring some relevant reading to young islanders.

As Lehua Kalima of Na Leo says, "I wish we'd had books that dealt with local teens and events when I was that age ... . It's really cool to be included."

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