I read books of all sorts, but mostly kids' lit and young adult literature and speculative fiction for all ages—usually from a feminist perspective.
I've adopted a personalized version of the CHOICE reviews approach to recommendations/star ratings:
***** = Essential, a.k.a. truly love, absolute must-read, buy it now
**** = Highly Recommended, a.k.a. this is a really good book; I would buy it as a gift
*** = Recommended, a.k.a. pretty good; worth reading
** = Optional, a.k.a. meh
* = Not Recommended; a.k.a. this is not a good book
What is there to like?
▪ Well-written prose, with a Southern lilt to the (first-person) narration and dialogue.
▪ Although it is written from a white perspective, I don't think it's a White People Solve Racism story. Racism certainly isn't solved by the end of the book, and the "good" white people aren't magically accepted into the black community. Rather, Glory gets only glimpses of the work that the African-American community is doing for themselves through stories from Emma, the cook.
▪ Glory's preoccupation with the pool being closed for the summer and having her birthday ignored is an honest portrayal of how kids start to learn about and process big problems—that is, when those problems start to infiltrate their own familiar world. This is important, because understanding comes through empathy, and young readers will easily relate to problems they might already understand—Glory's being upset about the pool and her birthday party—and, like Glory, come to understand the bigger, more important problems surrounding it.
▪ The relationships between Glory and her older sister (a teenager starting to grow up and pull away from her little sister) as well as her own best friend (a boy being bullied by his father and older brother in ways Glory doesn't quite understand) are sensitively drawn, and show how people grow and sometimes are torn by different loyalties.
What's not to like?
▪ Although it's not a White People Solve Racism story, it is written from a white perspective, and we do have plenty of cultural texts that portray (even celebrate) the Civil Rights movement through whites' involvement. This book could be a good introduction to the Civil Rights movement for young readers to pick up on their own, then, but it should certainly be followed up with a book that focuses on the African-American experience if they want to learn more.
▪ It does feel a little preachy sometimes, with Lessons too spelled out. For example:
"You know what Jesslyn? When this summer started, I worried that the worst thing would be the pool closing before my birthday and me not having a party. Being twelve is turning out okay after all."
"I figured out what's got people...so riled up. It's not just the new people in town. It's things changing so fast that's scaring them. When people get scared, they make up lies . . . And they act mean."
What made me pick it up?
Saw it on the library shelf and remembered that it was on my to-read list, and I want to read more historical/realistic kids' fiction.
Overall Recommendation: Recommended