The ALAN Review
Clip and File Young Adult Book Review
College of Education
University of Central Florida State University
Orlando, FL 32817
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Coming of Age/Rape
Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999. 198 pages. $16.00
This is a story about silence--- the causes and effects, the costs and benefits, but mostly the breaching of it. Late summer before her freshman year in high school, Melinda calls 911 ending a party and becoming a pariah. The first day of class a few weeks later, she is left to talk with Heather, a new girl, while everyone else snickers or ignores her. Melinda's parents are not getting along, Heather deserts her for the Martha's, girls who dress, act, and try to think as one, and IT appears in Melinda's dreams and around every corner. When day-to-day existence becomes too much to bear she takes refuge in a janitor's closet, to which she adds some posters and a comforter. But even there she's not safe from Andy Evans, the boy who raped her at the party and who is now dating the girl who used to be her best friend.
Anderson provides the reader with hints of what happened at the party throughout the text, as Melinda attempts to break her silence and explain why she had to call 911. As the story unfolds some readers will react like the accepting, available art teacher; Mr. Freeman, some will respond like the critical, absent parents; and some will recognize the adolescent, self-absorbed students at her high school. The wonderfully descriptive language, along with the suspense, capture and propel the reader through this tale. Speak was a National Book Award finalist in 1999.
Florida State University
Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers
edited by Judy Blume
American Short Stories
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1999. 198 pages. $16.95
This collection of contemporary stories by thirteen well-known young adult writers is a good read. Popular themes in young adult literature -- family strife, culture clash, sexual tension, coming of age -- are all explored in perceptive and entertaining vignettes that can be read in one classroom setting.
What makes this book special, though, are the authors' perspectives on censorship. Readers will learn much from popular novelist Judy Blume's recount of her personal experiences with censorship. Other authors Ð Norma Fox Mazer, Paul Zindel, Susan Beth Pfeiffer, Walter Dean Meyers, David Klass --- include their particular perspectives, adding considerably to our understanding of what it means to be a writer "held in contempt" for their work. Of particular note is the excellent letter included from the Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, explaining in detail the problems and concerns with current censored material in the United States. Teachers devoted to preserving academic freedom should find a spot on their desk for this book.
Freya J. Zipperer
Armstrong Atlantic State University
Oliver by Charles Dickens, with illustrations by Ian Andrew
DAN Publishing, Inc. 1999. 64 pages. $14.95
The latest edition to the Eyewitness Classic series is the tale of Charles Dicken's Oliver Twist. First published in England in serial form from 1837-38, Oliver Twist was also the first novel in the English language featuring a youngster as the protagonist. Adapted by Naia Bray-Moffat, this Oliver is a fascinating historical picture of Victorian London. The picturesque characters and mesmerizing plot-perhaps more familiar to modern audiences through the musical version on stage and screen-gain new life in the story of the futility of crime through the addition of historical detail and carefully crafted illustrations.
For those searching for a way to bring the classics to life, DK Publishing provides a smart solution. This easy to read adaptation and accompanying material about children and crime in the 19th century England - including amap of Oliver's underground world, - is just the "thing" to help young people learn about Dickens' London.
Additional volumes in the series include 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Robinson Crusoe, King Arthur, Aladdin, A Christmas Carol, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dracula, Robin Hood, and Black Beauty.
Auburn University, Alabama
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
Scribner, 1999. 224 pages. $16.95
Here's a fascinating survival story for younger readers. Nine-year-old Trisha McFarland becomes separated from her mother and older teenage brother while hiking along the Appalachian Trail in Maine.
Armed with only her lunch, her rain poncho and her Walkman, Trisha wanders throughout the woods, following streams, sinking in swamps, fighting bugs, and scavenging for survival. A devout Boston Red Sox fan, Trisha tunes into games on her Walkman, following especially the movements of her hero, relief pitcher Tom Gordon. Desperate, she hallucinates that Tom Gordon is beside her, talking to her and keeping her alive.
If any author can convince readers that a nine-year-old can survive nine days in the wilderness, Stephen King can. Readers will root for Trisha while she cheers on her favorite ball player. This novel is fast-paced and easy to read. Trisha is a brave, strong, spirited young girl whose passionate belief in the world's goodness helps her survive.
Lisa K. Winkler
South Orange Middle, Orange, NJ
Midnight Magic by Avi
Scholastic Press, 1999. 256 pages. $15.99
In fifteenth-century Pergamontio, twelve-year-old Fabrizio plays with some tarot cards against the advice of his master, Mangus the Magician. Mangus is trying to get out of magic and devote himself to being a good Christian.
However, Fabrizio and Mangus are soon involved in a request by King Claudio to free his daughter, ten-year-old Princess Teresina, of a ghost who visits her. The Princess suspects it is her murdered brother, heir to the throne of their father, King Claudio.
Lurking in the shadows, though, is Count Scarazoni - who also wants to be king. So, young Fabrizio and Mangus must use magic to thwart Count Scarazoni, free the Princess, and save the throne.
Early adolescents will revel in this story filled with secret passages, mysterious mishaps, and eerie moments. Chapters ending in cliff hangers and a parade of characters with strange names embellish a story where truth is revealed and good prevails.
A fun read for younger readers.
East Tennessee State University
Witches and Witch-Hunts: A History of Persecution by Milton Meltzer
Blue Sky/Scholastic Press, 1999. 128 pages. $16.95
Witches have long been a topic of interest to adolescents. Now, with the success of the low budget horror movie, The Blair Witch Project, interest in witches and witchcraft has increased among adolescents.
Meltzer's thoughtful new nonfiction book on witchcraft fits the bill. It is not a simple recounting of the witchcraft trials of the past. Instead, Meltzer discusses the reasons behind many of the witch-hunts, giving readers a broader view. Working chronologically from the past to the present, Meltzer presents information about witch-hunts around the world. Included in his analyses are stories of traditional witches who cast spells and non-traditional figures, like Adolf Hider and Joseph McCarthy, who masterminded their own devastating modern-day witch-hunts.
Teachers looking for ways to discuss issues such as prejudice, discrimination, and racism will find this book quite useful. Social studies teachers will find Meltzer's approach an excellent model of historical analysis for their classrooms. He once again demonstrates that nonfiction can be interesting as well as informative.
Teri S. Lesesne
Sam Houston State University
My Angelica by Carol Lynch Williams
Delacorte Press, 1999. 149 pages. $15.99
Fifteen-year-old Sage Oliver has begun what she believes will be her career as a writer of romance novels and has compiled the beginnings of over 600 love stories. All of her work includes the same heroine, Angelica, a woman who is driven by her inner strength and sex appeal. Sage's best friend and eventual boyfriend, George Blandford, knows firsthand how awful Sage's writing is but does not have the nerve to break her heart by telling her. However, when Sage decides to submit her newest creation, Angelica and the Seminole Indians, into the school's writing contest, George knows he must stop Sage from entering the contest and facing definite humiliation.
Williams allows both Sage and George to take turns as narrators, and she also includes love poems throughout the novel. Williams has created another fine YA novel and a must-read for YA romantics.
Florida State University
Ghost Cats by Susan Shreve
Coming of Age/Family
Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999. 128 pages. $14.95
The Hall family of four children, two parents, and six cats have lived all over the world -- but never in one place for long. Eleven-year-old Peter, though, thrives on change. He loves new places. And he especially loves his cats. In fact, since Peter is never in one place long enough to make real friends, his family and cats become his substitute friends.
One day, though, Peter's family makes a permanent move to Boston. Now, most of the family's time revolves around work, school and making new friends. Peter, though, misses the closeness of family that he once depended upon, and turns to his many cats for comfort.
Throughout the first year in Boston, Peter experiences bitterness, loss, and finally acceptance and maturity when he realizes that permanence and outside friends don't necessarily mean a lessening of love and attachment with his family.
Susan Shreve writes a likable story of the love between cats and people that younger readers will enjoy. Moreover, she successfully uses Peter to capture insights about growing up that older readers will appreciate.
Susanne L. Johnston
University of Wisconsin-Stout
Black Pioneers: An Untold Story by William L. Katz
Atheneum, 1999. 193 pages. $17.00
The founder of Chicago, called EscNkagou, was Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable, a Black man of French and African descent. James Davis was the first African-American born in the Northwest Territory. Harriet and Dred Scott used Minnesota's free state status to start the famous lawsuit for their freedom. These are some of the many examples of Black pioneers who helped settle the Old Northwest Territory.
In Black Pioneers: An Untold Story, William Katz writes in an approachable, conversational tone, encouraging the reader to revise notions of the role African-Americans played in this epoch of the American history. From the origins of the Revolutionary War to the end of the Civil War, Katz knits together biographic research, images, and other artifacts.
The end product is a book equally entertaining and informative; one in which Katz recounts the long, unsteady progress of African-Americans towards freedom and dignity.
University of North Carolina, Wilmington
The Way Things Never Were: The Truth About the 'Good Old Days'
by Norman H. Finkelstein
Atheneum, 1999. 103 pages. $16.00
Like countless generations before them, today's teens are bombarded with adult comments about the good old days. But were those days all that good?
Norman Finkelstein addresses that question by taking off the prerequisite rose colored glasses and introducing young teenagers to the 1950's and 60's. He delves into tried and true phrases such as "doctors cared because they made house calls," "the air was much cleaner," "the family stayed home together," and "we never had to lock our doors." Finkelstein shows the downside of these sweeping perceptions: the polio epidemics, the increasing smog and polluted rivers, the domestic poverty, the confining roles of women, the threat of nuclear war, and the world's very real civil unrest.
Although the information is interesting, it's the format of this readable social history that is intriguing. The author entices us by starting with "what we think we know," and then questioning our perceptions. The result is a thoughtful and appealing look at contemporary history, covering topics as diverse as the birth of the interstate highway system to the violent attempts to bring civil rights to all Americans.
Each discussion shows how historical events continue to shape our complex and changing world.
Texas Woman's University
Amelia's War by Ann Rinaldi
Scholastic Press, 1999. 272 pages. $15.95
Amelia's Maryland town is split by allegiance to the Confederacy or the Union. After Amelia carries a story to the town's newspaper editor, there are consequences that make Amelia vow not to take sides in the war. That decision is difficult to keep as her family and friends take sides. When a Confederate general threatens to burn the town if a ransom isn't met, Amelia must get involved.
Ann Rinaldi brings history to life again as she builds a story around the ransom of Hagerstown, Maryland, which took place in 1864. Young readers will find themselves caught up in the events of the Civil War battles and the characters in this book.
Chippewa Falls, WI
The Firework-Maker's Daughter by Philip Pullman
Arthur A. Levine Books, New York, 1999. 112 pages. $15.95
This is an imaginative tale of a spunky young girl who wants to follow in her father's footsteps and become a "master fireworks maker." The trouble is that she must team with the secret behind making outstanding fireworks.
Soon, our heroine learns that the secret of outstanding fireworks resides with the "Fire-Fiend" in the "Heart of the Mountain". So, she runs away from her home to locate "the secret," only to find trouble and misadventure along the way. This short and very readable novel alternates between a description of the girl's journey and her father's desperate attempt to find his runaway daughter.
This book is a wonderful blend of humor, adventure, and wisdom, set in an exotic Far Eastern setting. All the characters in the book have memorable personalities and the descriptions of the forests, mountains, and the fireworks make for a colorful and enjoyable read.
The Firework Maker's Daughter is a short book with a strong, young heroine and is appropriate for late elementary and early middle school readers.
University of Akron
Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African-American Whalers
by Patricia and Frederick McKissack
Scholastic Press, 1999. 147 pages. $15.95
The McKissacks have done an excellent job in researching a chapter of African-American history that is seldom explored by history texts -- the whaling industry and black slavery.
Between 1800-1860, the United States whaling industry reached its "golden age." Both black seamen, who were free and liberated, and runaway slaves, were thrown together on whaling vessels. There, runaway slaves could make good on their escapes from the hands of oppression while black whaleman could rise to the level of sea captains or even, owners of whaling ships. This was an unusual and precedent-setting time in American history.
Patricia and Frederick McKissack underline, in a well-written narrative, the ties of the industry to the abolitionist movement, including a discussion of the work of renowned African-American leader, Frederick Douglass. As history notes, Douglass was a caulker on a whaling ship prior to his involvement in the abolitionist movement.
This wonderful text explores the lives of individual African-Americans who were active in whaling - detailing their accomplishments and impact on the industry. This book would be fine addition to any classroom where teachers yearn to teach new perspectives on American history.
University of Arizona-South
A Light in the Storm: The Civil War Diary of Amelia Martin (Dear America series)
by Karen Hesse
Historical Fiction/Civil War
Scholastic, 1999. 176 pages. $10.95
In this new addition to the popular "Dear America" series, 15-year-old Amelia Martin helps to operate the lighthouse at Fenwick Island, Delaware. It is the mid-1800's, just at the outbreak of the Civil War, and Amelia, verging on young adulthood, takes her responsibilities very seriously. She knows that people's lives depend on the diligent performance of her duties, especially during storms.
Many types of storms, though, buffet Amelia's teenage years. First, she must convince the Lighthouse Board that a young woman is capable of keeping the light. Second, she must watch helplessly as her country and her community go to war over the issue of slavery. And finally, she tries to make peace between her embittered and battle-frightened parents. Through it all, she vows to "keep the Light, in all weather, under every adversity."
As with other books in the series, Amelia's observations of her life and times are presented in diary form. What is special about this volume is that the main character is based on a real woman, Ida Lewis, who saved 22 people in performance of her duties as a lighthouse keeper during the Civil War era. The author's notes on life in 1861 will help young readers understand the turmoil created by the Civil War in the lives of average American citizens.
Redlands Middle School, Grand Junction, CO
They Saw the Future: Oracles, Psychics, Scientists, Great Thinkers and Pretty Good Guessers
by Kathleen Frull, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1999. 108 pages. $19.99
Here is a novel book, one for those wanting something "slightly different." They Saw the Future ... presents 12 chapters on individuals, groups, or civilizations (such as the ancient Maya) who predicted the future. They range from the Oracle at Delphi and the Sibyls to Jeanne Dixon and Marshall McLuhan. This is a fascinating read.
Each chapter begins with an illustration of the psychic and an attributed quote. What follows is the author's analysis of how the "medium" worked -- did they read palms? charts? Interpret dreams? explore trends? -- and then how well they were received during their lifetime. Did their predictions come true? Did people believe them? Who was held in esteem? Who was feared? And why?
This worthwhile, readable book may be read in total or by chapters for those interested in a particular time period, particular psychics, and specific predictions.
Edna Earl Edwards
The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow: The Diary of Sarah Nita, a Navajo Girl, New Mexico, 1864
by Ann Turner
Scholastic, Inc., 1999. 208 pages. $10.95
Sarah Nita, a Navajo, narrates to her granddaughter her story of the 1864 "Long Walk," where Navajos were forced by white soldiers to relocate and undertake a grueling march to Fort Sumner, MN.
Sarah was twelve years old when she and her sister escaped the soldiers' decimation of her clan. Presumably orphaned, they traveled to Tseyi, where they had family. On arrival, they were adopted by other Navajos, many also escapees.
Soon, soldiers returned and demanded Navajo surrender. Thus began the terrible four day trek through freezing weather to Ft. Sumner; those unable to walk were either left or killed. At the fort, survivors faced grueling labor and, although they were given food, it was unfamiliar and thus unpalatable. The girls were reunited with their parents and lived there for four years, until government release.
This book could be paired with Holocaust or Japanese internment literature. Historically, the capture and containment of the Navajos resulted from whites' fears of their nomadic and raiding lifestyle. This fear is mentioned in the end "Historical Notes," but not in the story, where Navajos were portrayed as stable and peaceful. Photographs and information regarding the Navajo 1864 "Long Walk" are also included.
This book's special feature is its delicate and detailed description of Navajo life.
Lisa A. Spiegel
University of South Dakota
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
Arthur P. Levine, September 1999. 431 pages. $16.00
Those thousands of fans already familiar with this series will not be disappointed; Rowling is surprisingly inventive in her small details and startling in her plot twists. And what is particularly pleasing is that Harry grows in this novel, as the thematic concerns of the series grow in complexity. In this, the 3rd Harry Potter book, Harry returns to Hogwarts for his third year. He is shadowed by the knowledge of Sirius Black, a close associate of Lord Voldemort and one-time intimate friend of Harry's parents. Lord Voldemort has escaped from the prison of Azkaban and is undoubtedly looking to avenge himself upon Harry.
While struggling with this shadow, Harry also deals with the presence of the Dementors, the guards of Azkaban. The Dementors are looking for Sirus Black because they want to suck all joy and happiness out of those they find, and Harry, because of his past, is particularly susceptible to their powers. Supported by close friends Ron and Hermione, our hero Harry faces Black, fights for the House Cup, and in the end, comes to a new knowledge of his parents that he had never dreamed possible.
Here the good and the evil are not so starkly drawn, and may even at times blend in disturbing ways. If the final unraveling of the mystery is a bit clumsy, handled by lengthy and stilted exposition rather than her usual brisk action, Rowling is still wonderfully adept at creating engaging characters and a narrative line that pushes forward at a remarkable pace.
Gary D. Schmidt
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI
The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake
Coming of Age/Realistic Fiction
Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, 1998. 171 pages $14.95
Maleeka Madison has problems fitting in with others at her school. Her hair is too nappy, her skin is too dark, her grades are too good, her clothes are too weird, and her teachers are too fond of her. She desperately tries to make friends and to be accepted by her peers. Her situation drastically changes when she meets Miss Saunders, and the changes are not always for the better.
The Skin I'm In is a compelling novel of a young girl's struggle with self-acceptance and acceptance by her peer group. Through her struggles and with her teacher's help, she learns "to look into the mirror and like what [she sees], even when it doesn't look like anybody else's idea of beauty." Readers will find strong characters and an engaging plot in this book.
Washington State University
Speed of Light by Sybil Rosen
US Civil Rights Movement
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1999. 169 pages. $16.00
It is the 1950's and the newspapers are full of the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. Violence erupts in the small Southern town of Blue Gap when Jewish leader Nat Stem selects Lovelle Cardwell, a decorated World War II veteran, as the town's first African American police officer. In an attempt to maintain the status quo, some of the townspeople deface the synagogue with a Swastika, set Stem's house afire, and attack members of both the African American and Jewish communities.
Audrey Ina, Nat Stem's daughter, and Tante, a distant family relative and Holocaust survivor living with the Stems, provide the reader with personal and historical perspectives on this violence. Although focused on the incident in Blue Gap, the author successfully encourages the reader to see these events in a larger context through Nat and Audrey Ina's long and quiet talks about larger world events, and even Einstein's theory of relativity.
Florida State University
Dolphin Luck by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Alex Ayliffe
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1998. 153 pages. $16.00
Christmas for the Robinson's is far from merry. Both Mrs. Robinson and the beloved family dog are very ill. After hearing a local legend in which a dolphin-hilted sword grants wishes, eight-year-old Beany decides the family needs a bit of that dolphin luck.
Needing rest and recuperation, Mrs. Robinson heads alone to a seaside resort, leaving her family to be split among friends and relatives. Beany and ten-year-old Sun Dance stay with a neighbor, and twelve-year-old twins, Ant and Perry, are sent to stay with "crazy" Great Aunt Mabel.
Beany spends her days searching for the lost dolphin sword while Sun Dance sets traps to protect the vacant family home from burglars. The twins have unusual adventures of their own. But no one is prepared for the burglar Sun Dance's trap does catch.
McKay writes a humorous story of self-reliance and courage, which accurately portrays Beany's desire to make everything right again through the magic of wishes-come-true.
Monster Road by David Lubar (a novel in Lubar's "Accidental Monsters Series")
Scholastic, 1999, $3.99
Once, while sitting in church listening to a somber sermon, I got an uncontrollable case of the giggles. The more I tried to contain and compose myself, the more my body shook. Finally, I exploded into an enormous laugh. Reading Lubar's Monster Road affected me in exactly the same way. I could not stifle the giggles that arose as I read about the young misfit Kevin, his eccentric scientist uncle, Ned, and the silly situations in which they found themselves. I could not muffle chuckles as I read about the two being chased out of town by the spirits whom they had roused from cemetery sleep when Ned's life ray actually worked. I couldn't swallow the giggles that popped up while I read about the two spending the night with a friendly but hungry vampire. I couldn't help bursting out with laughter when I read that Ned finally found his soul mate, and the novel became, as Lubar promises, a "love story." I smiled when Kevin finally felt accepted in Ned's odd world.
In Monster Road, Lubar does not frighten readers with the macabre markers that appear of many contemporary horror stories; instead, he makes us laugh, and he encourages us to think about what life looks like for a kid who never feels quite like he belongs. Young adolescent readers (and adults, too!) will find this an entertaining quick read.
Florida State University
Lincoln and Slavery by Peter Burchard
Historical Non-fiction/Civil War
Atheneum, 1999. 196 pages. $17.00
Paying close attention to historical detail, Peter Burchard delves into the complexities of President Abraham Lincoln and the times in which he lived. The result is an illuminating portrayal of Lincoln that explores both his personal view and political stance on slavery. Although Burchard's overall attitude toward Lincoln is one of deepest respect, he does not overlook nor sugarcoat the troublesome aspects of some of Lincoln's statements about or positions toward people of African descent. Instead he tries to provide a context for Lincoln's beliefs and shows the development of his thinking about people of the Negro race. Of particular interest are Lincoln's dealings with Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth and what they themselves had to say about Lincoln.
Readers with a keen interest in Lincoln and the Civil War period will find much of worth here, but this is not light reading. The book cannot really serve as a reference, but rather requires a thoughtful, cover to-cover reading if one is to fully understand Lincoln's devotion to the concept of democracy, his unwavering belief in the importance of the Union, and his personal hatred of slavery.
The many photographs and artists' renditions of significant people and events enhance the text greatly, and the comprehensive bibliography and bibliographical essays speak highly of Burchard's scholarship.
West Virginia University
Good Night, Maman by Norma Fox Mazer
Holocaust/Dealing with Loss
Harcourt Brace, 1999. $16.00
When the Nazis enter Paris in 1940, Karin's life changes drastically. She is branded a Jew and not allowed to do normal everyday things like own a phone or a pet or even go to city parks. And then tragedy strikes. Her father is killed and she, her mother and older brother flee in desperation, hiding wherever they can. Unfortunately, though, their mother-- known to them as Maman -- gets very sick.
Yet, fearing for their own life, Karin and her brother Mark have to leave France without her. In Naples, Italy, they are able to board a ship which will take them to America and safety.
Living in America, Karin's young life is marked by going to school, making friends, and living with an annoying older brother. Nevertheless, beneath her ordinary world, Karin is still haunted by whatever happened to her darling Maman. One day, however, she can no longer avoid the painful subject.
This well-written book offers detailed information about Karin's life on the run and about the reception the refugees got in New York (the only WWII refugee camp on American soil) as we see America through the eyes of someone new to this country.
The Pearl of the Soul of the World by Meredith Ann Pierce Fantasy
Magic Carpet Books (Harcourt Brace & Co.), 1999. 301 pages. $6.00
Finally available at a reasonable price, this third and concluding volume in the "Dark Angel" trilogy brings the resolutions of conflicts and challenges that Aerial and 1rrylath faced through the first two volumes.
Nine years is a long time to wait for a book, but diehard Pierce fans will be swarming the shelves for this 1999 paperback version. Themes of self-sacrifice and responsibility and the preservation of the balance and interdependence of all nature rise from the action-filled plot based on the journey-with-a-mission motif. Pierce once again shows her talent as an artist, painting the scenes in vibrant technicolor.
Through her use of symbolism and imagery, she will capture most readers to prepare them for this powerful tale of reason over passion, good over evil, and responsibility over selfishness. Some readers will be disappointed with the not-so-happy ending, but more mature readers will readily discern the inevitability of the outcome. For the reader not already conversant with Pierce's characters and places, a helpful pronunciation guide accompanies the text.
Marjorie M. Kaiser
University of Louisville
Burning Up by Caroline Cooney
Delacorte Press, 1999. 230 pages. $15.95
Down the road from her grandparents' Shell Beach, Connecticut, home, fifteen-year-old Macey Clare discovers the foundation of a barn that burned down nearly forty years ago. Naturally curious, Macey wants to know more about the barn and the circumstances behind the fire. So, she begins asking her grandparents and their neighbors. But, when Macey finds normally friendly people evading her questions, her desire to learn more about the barn only increases.
Macey meets up with another neighborhood teenager, Austin, and together, they begin to gather facts about the barn's mysterious fire. They learn that the last inhabitant of the barn was one Wade Sibley, the first and only African-American teacher in this small Connecticut town. Macey suspects racism and her hunt for the truth leads her to a conflict that unwittingly tears her once perfect hometown and family apart.
Caroline Cooney, author of many fine young adult novels, writes another fine coming-of-age tale where young love -- Austin and Macey eventually become an item -- and the desire for truth and justice become intertwined in a moving and convincing read.
Florida State University
Reference Citation: (2000) "Clip and File YA Book Reviews." The ALAN Review, Volume 27, Number 2, 31-37.