Shortly after moving to her grandmother’s tiny, rural town, a girl develops vitiligo.
Emma notices the first spot, like a white freckle, on the day of her grandmother’s funeral. Though she’s distracted in the following days and weeks by grief and loneliness, missing the grandmother with whom she’d made up stories about fairies in the woods, Emma can’t miss the new white spots on her skin, which keep appearing and spreading. Perhaps if she had her sister’s and father’s “buttercream” skin she could ignore it, but Emma has her mother’s “much darker complexion,” and the dots are unmistakable. (If Emma’s biracial, nothing is made of that fact in the story.) A doctor confirms what Emma’s internet search has hinted at: Emma has vitiligo, an autoimmune condition that causes the skin to lose pigment. She’s perfectly healthy, she learns, as she spends a chapter reading from a medical pamphlet, relaying helpful and informative excerpts to readers. Unsurprisingly, Emma’s vitiligo, combined with being a new kid in school, has led to some vicious bullying in her new seventh grade. What would Emma do without Fina, her new friend? Fina is warm, supportive, and Mexican American, providing comfort, extremely unkidlike counseling, and educational explanations about the Day of the Dead and quinceañeras. Emma’s troubles and the magical stories she’d told with Gram in the forest come together in a warm and after-school-special–ish Thanksgiving in which even the bully is revealed to be good at heart.
As subtle as an extremely heartwarming brick. (Fiction. 9-11)