LUCY PEALE.Colby Rodowsky.Farrar, Straus and Giroux.167 pages....



Colby Rodowsky.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

167 pages. $15.

The heroine of the 12th young adult novel by Baltimore author Colby Rodowsky is a girl with a problem that won't go away. Lucy Peale is 17 years old, pregnant as the result of a date rape, and her fundamentalist preacher father wants her to come forward at the next service and confess to the congregation: "We're going to listen as Lucy Peale says, Thank you, Jesus, for giving me this sin and giving me a way to show that even a Jezebel can turn her life around," he commands her.

Instead, she escapes to nearby Ocean City, where she meets a young man named Jake. He lets Lucy, hungry and bedraggled after a couple of days spent living under the boardwalk, move into his apartment. Gradually, he grows to love her -- and her unborn child. However, a commitment he made long before he knew Lucy will test their budding relationship.

"Lucy Peale" is an exquisite, moving love story, carefully crafted for the sensibilities of younger readers; the rape scene is not graphic, and while Jake and Lucy cohabit, they do not sleep together. (Also, despite her distaste for her father's brand of fundamentalism, Lucy never turns away from God.) But while teen-agers will surely love Lucy, a strong and spirited protagonist, the novel is engaging enough to make it a good bet for older readers, too.

In 1953, science fiction writer Ray Bradbury went to Ireland to write a screenplay of "Moby-Dick" for director John Huston, and spent seven months in the company of the hard-drinking, hard-working filmmaker. That relationship has already inspired several Bradbury stories, but this time he expands it into a novel about a young writer who faces a whale and a director, both larger than life, as well as his own feelings about the people and countryside.

It is a charming, delicate story, for all the boisterous characters -- Mr. Bradbury writes as though walking through a favorite recurrent dream, as though one misstep might send him crashing awake, robbed of his memories. He writes to preserve images he has nurtured for almost 40 years, and if at times the words seem hushed, muted in their reverence for history, the cast of characters, especially Huston, with his "lazy, half-lidded iguana stare," keeps the story from sliding headlong into wistfulness. Mr. Bradbury seems to be cataloging his past -- setting down not just what he saw, but what it meant to him to see it -- asking the reader only to slow down, be patient, and accept that the deliberate pace is the only way to acknowledge the wealth of detail.

The world is in danger -- again! And Dirk Pitt saves the day -- again! In "Sahara," you have the plot of the latest Dirk Pitt novel; only the villains, places, threat to the world and historical curiosity that Clive Cussler throws into his books have been somewhat revised from earlier books. The cartoon violence, silly dialogue and beautiful, willing women are essentially unchanged from other novels in the series.

"Sahara" deals with an ecological menace to the oceans -- Mr. Cussler knows how to be politically correct -- due to a tin-pot African dictator and a demented French industrialist. The toxic dumping causes people -- in this case, Africans -- to go mad and turn into cannibals. There are some historical novelties that have to do with the Lincoln assassination and an Amelia Earhart clone, but they don't add to the plot.

Another point: If "Sahara" were just another potboiler, it could be dismissed. But it is a big best seller, and its flaws are all the more conspicuous. In the last three adventures, Dirk stopped a Japanese threat to the United States ("Dragon"), foiled a Mexican invasion ("Treasure") and, now, handled this ecological disaster from Africa. Although there is a French villain, the danger is African. Fortunately for Dirk, there are more Third World nations to vanquish in future novels.


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