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Novel for older teens. A little romance, a lot of practicality

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The Catalogue of the Universe, by Margaret Mahy. New York: Atheneum. 185 pp. $11.95. ``The Catalogue of the Universe'' is a love story. In fact, it is a tale about romantic love stories and when and where we can believe in them.

Angela May considers herself a ``child of love''; she lives with her mother and has been fed as a child on a tale about her romantic beginnings. As the novel opens, she goes in search of her father -- and finds the reality of him to be very different from what she has believed. Paralleling this plot is the story of the relationship between Angela and Tycho Potter, a short, brainy boy not her or anyone else's image of a romantic hero. As Angela sees through her own romanticism, she begins to see Tycho in a new way as well.

There is a lot to enjoy in this novel. Margaret Mahy has a knack for creating characters who are individuals, but who are still universal enough for us to recognize and to understand. Angela is a young girl half in love with her own beauty and specialness; Tycho is more at home in the world of Greek philosophers and mathematicians than he is in his own New Zealand. Both are mystified and irritated by what they see of the adult world, but they continue to try to understand it.

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