Girls in 1958 Atlanta don’t just have soft drinks before lunch: They drink Co-Cola floats.
And if they want to be popular and successful, they compete for pre-debutante titles like Maid of Cotton and Magnolia Queen. They certainly don’t admit to being Jewish. Ruth Robb—who’s arrived from New York after her father’s death—never mentions her religion to her boyfriend even though she goes to synagogue every Shabbos. Carlton (Love & Haight, 2012, etc.) loves her telling details a little too much. Characters say “Shalom, y’all” a few times too many, and readers may worry, on occasion, that the author is going to describe every single object in the Robbs’ home. But every character is memorable and complex, and the plot quickly becomes engrossing, though it leads up to an act of anti-Semitic violence that 21st-century readers may find much too timely. The characters are, unsurprisingly, largely white, and in one brief act of defiance, Ruth walks through the colored-only entrance at the movies. The climax involves larger acts of defiance, but it also requires a level of coincidence that may raise eyebrows. Still, the characters’ moral decisions are so complicated and so surprising that many people will be kept spellbound by even the tiniest detail.
Riveting. (Historical fiction. 14-19)