In this coming-of-age YA novel, a young teenager questions her frivolous concerns when they clash with the societal changes of the 1960s.
On Angie Finley’s first day at Lafayette Senior High School in North Carolina in 1966, she witnesses the students playing keep-away with an African-American student’s backpack while yelling racial slurs. “I was doubly, triply, quadruply, even quintuply glad I was white,” she thinks as she sits down in her first classroom. At first, she doesn’t have the courage to stand out or stand up for others, but she feels a need to befriend the only black student in her history class, Valerie Franklin—the victim of the keep-away harassment, who becomes the target of repeated insults and injuries. They share a friendship with Stan Bukowski, who encourages Angie to write for the school paper about issues surrounding the Vietnam War. She discovers that she enjoys being valued for her mind and her opinions; however, her mother advises her that “The road to popularity is paved with pompoms.” Angie also starts dating handsome, white football player Craig Anderson, but later, she starts wondering whether he might harbor racist views. As she grows more aware of the larger world around her, she starts to question everything about herself, from her appearance to her friends. Lacy’s (The Time Telephone, 2018, etc.) journalism background is evident throughout this novel, particularly in her characterizations of Angie and Stan. Their mutual bonding over writing for the school paper takes them from an initially confrontational relationship to a respectful friendship. The focus on issues of the day, including bigotry and the draft, give some tension to the familiar first-love storyline. The attacks against Valerie, in particular, tie into contemporary themes, giving this period piece a modern feel at times. That said, it remains firmly grounded in the 1960s, with appropriate clothing and musical references.
A pleasing tale of emerging adulthood.