Firegirl, Francine, and Penny
Firegirl. Well, frankly, I'm unimpressed. It's a lovely story, and worthy--but I can barely remember it a week later. The characters never felt like more than pawns to me. Whereas:
in The Loud Silence of Francine Green, another quiet-protagonist-befriends-outsider-new-girl-at-Catholic-school story, there's so much more. Francine's accomplishment at the end is believable, and worthy enough, and not the over-the-top transformation I feared was coming. The history (because this is historical fiction even though it's only 1950) works with the story and despite it (whereas in Firegirl the story never kept stride with the message) ... and does exactly what history is supposed to do: leaves readers with a sense of what they themselves can do today to make their own world better.
Same time period, opposite coast: Penny From Heaven. (Ok: who picked the awful cover?) Holm, like Cushman, is a writer who knows her characters. Penny is instantly engaging, and each member of her extended Italian-American family is vivid in my mind weeks later, even though I met them (uh, read about them) at the height of my ugly sinus-viral thing in the middle of a heat wave. Luckily, my memories of that week are of 1953 New Jersey: the Falucci's butcher shop, Uncle Dominic's car, Scarlett O'Hara peeing on the rug, and the poor, poor milkman. A "period piece"perhaps--but so excellently done.