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> YOUNG ADULT

The Letter Q: Queer Writers' Notes to Their Younger Selves, edited by Sarah Moon with contributing editor James Lecesne; Arthur A. Levine Books, 280 pages ($17.99). Ages 12 and up.

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Sixty-four authors and illustrators, including Amy Bloom, Gregory Maguire, Michael Cunningham, David Levithan, Julie Ann Peters and Jacqueline Woodson, journey into their pasts and the tough road they followed, as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered people, through the confusion, the torture of adolescence. In essays, long and short, they reassure their younger selves about the struggle that led to rewarding adulthood. These talented editors and authors recall painful struggles with body issues, their crushes, the universal confusion of adolescence forged in a fire of torment, of bullying at the hands of classmates, even teachers. Linda Villarosa as a black lesbian recalls unbreakable family ties forged through "The Terrible Day" in childhood when her family arrived at their new home in Denver to find racial slurs painted on their house. Several recall thoughts of suicide, self-harm, substance abuse. Diane DiMassa's essay burns: "people are ugly and they are ignorant. they are small and wooden-headed, they are rabid and savage and full of sh-- and bile, and I will not lie to you, you need to grow a skin because the world is full of them."

Levithan cautions against using wit as a weapon, recalling his eighth grade self bullying his earth science teacher.

The essays (some in the form of graphic novel pages) are funny, poignant, eloquent, angry, forgiving, heartbreaking, inspiring. LaShonda Katrice Barnett, among others, notes the possibility of a spiritual life and acceptance in a worship community.

A universal message might be "It gets better." And from Maguire: "Try not to succumb to the narcissim of lonelieness too much. Mind you take care of someone else while you're taking care of yourself. We all are struggling to release our souls from stone."

Jean Westmoore

> SUSPENSE

Line of Fire by Stephen White, Dutton, 384 pages ($26.95)

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After 20 years, Stephen White has decided to end his popular series featuring psychologist Dr. Alan Gregory. The penultimate book, "Line of Fire," starts to bring the saga full circle.

Wildfires rage across the Colorado countryside, and the call for evacuation could come at any time. A new client has a strange story to tell, and a colleague has begun showing signs of a nervous breakdown. A secret between Gregory and police officer Sam Purdy, revealed in 2007's "Dry Ice," has started to emerge, and it's the one thing that could shatter Gregory's marriage, destroy his career and put him behind bars for decades.

It would only be worse for Purdy.

White was a practicing clinical psychologist for more than 15 years, so he brings the needed authenticity to Gregory's cases.

The fly-on-the-wall feel during his sessions with clients adds an emotional element to the proceedings that gives the characters added realism.

White has created an amazing cast of characters, and it's sad to see the end in sight. On the other hand, White has had an amazing run of almost 20 Gregory novels.

Fans will love how the threads from the other books weave into a complex tapestry. Newcomers will find a compelling mystery set against the beautiful Colorado landscape amid raging wildfires.

The end of "Line of Fire" is a bit abrupt, but there's one more novel coming to provide closure.

Associated Press

> NONFICTION

The Betrayal of the American Dream by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele; PublicAffairs, 320 pages ($26.99).

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The highly decorated investigative team of Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele return in their eighth book to their core topic, U.S. economic policy. But "The Betrayal of the American Dream" is no rerun.

The avuncular pair, renowned for chillingly accurate, if uncomfortable, observations, have meticulously sharpened their analysis.

Now, four decades of mistaken tax and trade policy, declining public and private investment and willing disregard of existing laws have crippled many American industries and sent thousands upon thousands of U.S. jobs overseas without cause, they say.

Given the power of their past groundbreaking work on health care, the economy and other political hot potatoes that shape how all Americans live, "Betrayal" merits a careful read from anyone concerned about the nation's economic future. It is almost haunting.

Barlett and Steele argue that Washington policymakers, Republican and Democratic alike, have collaborated with leaders on Wall Street to create an economy that caters only to the biggest multinational corporations and very wealthiest households, leaving most Americans and most U.S businesses to scrap for limited leftovers.

Much of their information, including many of their most damning quotes and assessments, comes directly from government reports. In some cases, short-term gain sought by bankers and investors is the clearest problem.

In others, simple shortsightedness is to blame.

Associated Press