Lively, poignant, and utterly winning, The Diary of Latoya Hunter is a timely portrait of adolescence--about the universal challenges of youth and about the ways it is shaped by the inner city. It is also a lively introduction to a delightful girl whose humor and idealism are inspirational.
While attending P.S. 94 in the Bronx, Hunter was praised by a teacher for her ``incredible writing talent,'' a comment that found its way into a New York Times profile of the elementary school. This led Crown editor Richard Marek to ask Hunter to keep a diary describing her first year in junior high. Unfortunately, the Jamaican-born 12-year-old's entries lack a distinctive voice and syntax, possibly as a result of overzealous editing, although an editor's note states that ``every word in this diary is Latoya's.'' Teenagers may enjoy reading about Hunter's struggles to adapt to parental edicts, a new school, romance and other adolescent problems, but adults will find little of interest in this short journal. Hunter is most interesting and moving when she describes her painful efforts to come to grips with the urban violence around her. ( Sept. )