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The Measure of a Man
by Marie Ferrarella
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1706, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-24706-0
**
I was pleased to receive The Measure of a Man by Marie Ferrarella in my books to review. From my experience, you can depend on Ms. Ferrarella to deliver a competently written, interesting, and very readable book. Unfortunately, The Measure of a Man falls far short of that mark. (No pun intended.)

The hero of the story is Smith Parker, a fabulous looking and hard working man, who, because he felt forced to drop out of college, works dead-end jobs for little pay. He’s bitter about his life and the accusations of theft that caused his scholarship to be revoked. He takes a maintenance job at the college where he was disgraced and is soon sucked into helping the secretary of a popular professor search for information that may help keep the sweet, old professor from being forced into retirement.

The heroine of the story is the professor, Gilbert Harrison’s, secretary, Jane Jackson. Jane wants the professor to keep his job mainly because she feels that it would be an injustice for Professor Harrison to be forced out, but also because if the professor loses his job, Jane loses hers. She’s a divorced single mother, rearing her son all alone, and doesn’t know what she’ll do if she loses her job.

Jane and Smith become very close during their search for information to help with Professor Harrison’s dilemma. Although they had very little interaction before Smith left school, Jane and Smith remember each other from those days. The attraction that each felt back then adds to the growing warmth between them.

While The Measure of a Man has technically skillfully writing, the book itself is please-kill-me-now tedious. The book has several undeveloped characters that pop in and out, presumably from other books in the “Most Likely Too” series, of which this book is a part. The main characters are fully developed but are mostly unlikable and uninteresting.

Smith may be cute, but he makes very bad decisions. He lost his scholarship and had to drop out of college, so he feels his life is over. He thinks he can never get the job he wants, and at age 29 is resigned to never marrying or having children since he won’t be able to support them. In what world does this guy live? No mention is ever made of night school, student loans or Pell Grants. He just drops out and gives up. Smith has another setback as part of the later plot and what does he do? He breaks up with Jane, of course, although what happens is in no way her fault.

Jane was able to graduate from college, with the help of her beloved Professor Harrison, and yet chooses to remain in a low-paying secretarial position. And yes, the word “secretary” is used in the book instead of the more modern “administrative assistant.” But somehow Jane is able to support herself and a son with no help from her ex-husband, including purchasing a house with a large lot and an extra room for her son to play in. The facts contradict themselves. And why would Jane, after managing to make a decent life for herself, get involved with a whining quitter like Smith?

The Measure of a Man doesn’t have a solid plot. There’s a little dab of romance between Jane and Smith, there’s a little dab of something about one of the other character’s adoption papers, and there are several little bits about the other students who have received help from Prof Harrison. And then there are several even smaller dabs about several even less well-developed plot lines and characters. Unfortunately none of these little dabs is very interesting. Give this book a pass.

--Wendy Livingston


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