BOOKS: Falling Apart

In a skillful first novel, a teen suffers an excess of troubles

The year it all fell apart, Stewart O'Nan reports in Snow Angels, an unusually skillful first novel (Doubleday; 305 pages; $20), Arthur Parkinson was 14, a not-very-good trombonist in his high school band, "small for his size, generally ignored." He and his friend Warren were trying out pot, trying out irony and scornfulness.

Given what was facing Arthur, these usually reliable teenage defenses weren't quite enough. His parents were splitting up, glumly and fatalistically. And a young neighborhood woman, Arthur's friend and former baby-sitter, was destroyed by the accidental drowning of her baby daughter -- it was Arthur who discovered the...

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