In this pre–World War II companion to the novels Blue (2006) and Comfort (2009), 14-year-old Junior Bledsoe fights personal battles at home as America’s entry into the war grows imminent.
Junior struggles with school and to control his anger at his alcoholic father, his insufferable grandfather, his neighbors, and himself. When his father dies after another night of drinking, Junior feels ever more desperate to understand himself and find his own aim in life. He finds relief from his troubles in escapes to the nearby woods and tinkering with cars. A fatherly neighbor provides some much-needed guidance, and a challenging teacher and troubled classmate help him find some direction. Hostetter creates a vivid sense of time and place in her early-1940s rural North Carolina setting and a fully realized, sympathetic character in Junior. She makes Junior choose how to handle the hard things that come his way, whether to be shaped negatively or positively by them. Over the course of the novel, a year passes after Junior’s father dies, and the story satisfyingly concludes with him confident and looking forward to the future. An author’s note explains the story’s historical context.
An absorbing, well-crafted coming-of-age story with finely detailed historical background. (bibliography, further reading) (Historical fiction. 9-12)