The Pay It Forward author has a knack for wise-beyond-their-years children. This time, we have Pearl, simultaneously steely and needy, who has sex with a cop at age 13 and then accidentally shoots him; and Leonard, Pearl’s eerily calm, bespectacled son, whom she leaves with their 25-year-old neighbor Mitch when her past catches up with her. Told in multiple voices over the course of 30 years, Love in the Present Tense sometimes feels as though Catherine Ryan Hyde is more concerned with hooking a screenwriter than a reader (see Pearl’s bromides about ”forever love”). In the end, however, what rings true is the bond between Mitch (think Barry Watson) and Leonard (we’d go for an unknown).