While hoping for her jailed, single mother’s appeal in 1953, an Appalachian Mountain girl from West Virginia finds her identity in this promising debut.
“My mama’s in jail. It ain’t right. Leastwise, I don’t think so,” begins sixth-grader Lydia’s spiral notebook, bought to help her sort through recent, tragic events. Her first-person narration, which unfolds in pitch-perfect, regional dialect, alternates present and past. In the former, she lives with her particular aunt and uncle and deals with the bullies at school who call her mother a murderer. In the past, she reveals that her little brother, BJ, has “Sissy Fie Broke It” and recounts both BJ’s special treatments at a research hospital (which claims all rights to him) in Ohio and the family’s decision to “kidnap” BJ to let him die from his cystic fibrosis at home. Complicating Lydia’s already-stressful life are her passage into womanhood and a family secret about her relationship with the mother she’s fighting to free. Her story occasionally makes a didactic dip, especially when relating court terminology and commenting on segregation of the time. Nevertheless, Lydia’s comparisons to spunky Anne of Green Gables, unwavering faith, strong family ties and growing appreciation of her Appalachian heritage will secure middle-grade readers.
For fans of Ruth White’s and Kerry Madden’s Appalachian-inspired fiction. (map, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 9- 12)