PLAIN CITY by Virginia Hamilton


Age Range: 9 - 13
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At 12, Bulaire has reason to ponder her identity; a bright, prickly loner, she wonders if her looks--changeable blue-green eyes, "golden Rasta twists," pale skin that summer tans "to near-chocolate lightly washed in burnt orange"--are why she's at odds with her darker friends and relatives. Now, in winter, she's angry--with Grady, who teases in class but seems friendly when he follows her on long walks; and--after she hears that her father isn't dead, as she's been told, but in town--with her mother Bluezy, often away singing gigs, and with the aunts and uncle who care for her. On a bitter cold day, Bulaire, dazzled by snow, is rescued by her dad and taken to his cave under the Interstate, Grady following. Though "Junior" is evidently unbalanced, he does seem to care about her; and though he begs for a "stake," he also returns some of her "back time"--family photos and mementoes that had mysteriously vanished. Bulaire almost decides to go with him, as he unrealistically suggests, and does give him money, as (they now tell her) his half-sisters and ex-wife have often done. In some ways, Plain City is the obverse of Cousins: this father, homeless and a con man, is probably unreclaimable, though he, too, helps his daughter at a critical moment. The other adults are believably flawed, but bracingly strong and reliable. In the end (as a January thaw--"not heat, just not freezing"--melts the ice), the truth sets Bulaire free to see her elders as they are and begin to make peace--with them and with herself and her mixed heritage. Subtle, wise, complex-- superb. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-590-47364-6
Page count: 196pp
Publisher: Scholastic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1993


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