Age Range: 10 - 12
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A tried and trite theme for coming-of-age novels, Cassie’s loss of innocence in a southern town during the ’20s fails to deliver a convincing reality despite some affecting understated prose and engaging characters. While abetting her brother Jake’s prank of putting blue dye in the baptismal pool, Cassie overhears her father’s romantic encounter with the new preacher’s wife. Cassie’s sister, Adra, has left town that morning on the sly, due to the rumors about her relationship with a boy who has committed suicide. As Cassie copes with these betrayals, she finds herself becoming friends with newcomer Jan, two years older and newly arrived from Hungary. A death of another boy, which is caused by drinking homemade whiskey, the revelations regarding Adra’s failed romance, and a Ku Klux Klan attack on an old man provide plenty of action. The aura of unreality is especially evident in the complete absence of people of color, and from the father’s sudden realization of the value of his family in a conveniently overheard conversation. Hints at Adra’s boyfriend’s homosexuality as being at the root of his suicide seem to be superimposed melodrama when readers are totally unconnected to Adra or the boy. It’s this unevenness of narrative that lacks connection and detail to give a distinct sense of time and place that hamper McNichols’s debut from fulfilling the promise of Cassie’s sharp voice and the subtlety of the writing. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8027-8750-9
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Walker
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2000