At first, this book presented a conundrum to me. A character appears who is obviously a racist stereotype – and this made me question Spinelli’s status as a great writer of YA novels. Then gradually the mindsets of the other characters clued me in – THEY see the character in question as a stereotype, when in reality she is a tragic figure, judged by a racist society. (The book firmly stands in “To Kill a Mockingbird” territory here, once again showing that the author of “Milkweed” and “Stargirl” does not shy away from difficult topics.) Not that the other characters fare much better – (slight spoiler alerts here!) Cammie, the protagonist, is at first unlikeable enough to be a genuine antihero; her father (the warden) is so distant as to be off in the ether somewhere (though there are plenty of hints to the contrary); and Cammie’s friend is shallow enough to be fascinated by fame of any kind at any cost. BUT – there is a redemptive ending (at least for Cammie), and by the time the reader gets there, it has become obvious that the narrative was leading there all along. This is a surprisingly complex novel (maybe only ostensibly for kids) with keen psychological insight. Worth a read!

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