cover image A Diamond in the Dust: 6

A Diamond in the Dust: 6

Carla Joinson. Dial Books, $17.99 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2511-9

Joinson (March of Glory) evokes the hardships of life in a turn-of-the-century southern Illinois mining town in this affecting novel. Her 16-year-old heroine, Katy Sollis, knows there must be something better than the grit and terrible dangers of the mines, and she's determined to find it. Innate resilience helps her withstand the daily toll of poverty and her bitter, careworn mother's pressure on her to quit school and marry a coarse man she barely knows. Katy dreams of going to St. Louis and maybe becoming a ""lady type-writer"" or even a teacher, but she also thinks she loves her brother's best friend, who has no intention of ever leaving Buckeye City. While the plot occasionally verges on the melodramatic and some of the writing borders on the formulaic (""Believe in yourself, and don't ever lose hope,"" the schoolteacher tells Katy at the end), Joinson succeeds in creating compelling conflicts, and she doesn't take the easy route in resolving them. When Katy finally makes her escape, it is not without a real sense of what she is sacrificing. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)