Successfully weaving historical events with a dynamic personal narrative, Levine (The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had) offers a riveting, frequently tense portrait of 1958 Little Rock, Ark., the tumultuous year when the governor refused integration by closing local high schools. The story is told through the sensitive voice of painfully quiet 12-year-old Marlee Nisbett, who makes a rare friend in Liz, a new student at her middle school. Liz instills some much-needed confidence in Marlee, but when it’s revealed that Liz is “passing” as a white student, Liz must leave school abruptly, putting their friendship to the test. The girls meet in secret, and Marlee joins an antisegregationist organization, both actions inviting serious risk amid escalating racist threats. Levine’s characters fall on both sides of the integration issue, but she avoids painting them too broadly, and many of their views evolve over the course of the book. The best evolution, though, belongs to Marlee, who starts off almost pathologically shy and gradually learns to face her fears, find her voice, and speak up for what’s right. Ages 10–up. Agent: Kathryn Green Literary Agency. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/21/2011 Release date: 01/05/2012 Genre: Children's
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