Synopses & Reviews
Allie Benton's summer at her grandparents' house in Minnesota is the same as it's always been: northern lights and pine trees, family gossip and root beer floats. She's come here to escape Nebraska's tornado season every summer for as long as she can remember. The only difference is, this time no one's coming to take her back to Nebraska when fall rolls around.
With her father dead, her mother run off to heaven knows where, and her twin brother, seven years buried, just a ghost in her memory, Allie settles in with her grandparents for a cold Minnesota winter. But it's hard to fit in at a new school when her family can't afford to buy her a pair of blue jeans. And, in an ethnically divided community, Allie isn't even allowed to choose the friends she wants-handsome Joey Redfern and Lidia, the beautiful Ojibwe girl who calls Allie my niijikwe,"my friend."
With a strong poetic voice, Julie Williams creates snapshots of Allie piecing a new life together- longing for her mother, grieving for her father, remembering her brother, and struggling to do what's right in an imperfect world. As the people around her come and go, Allie starts to get a sense of who she is, and of what she can hold on to despite the changes in her world.
"Using the increasingly popular free-verse format for her first novel, Williams turns the internal monologue of a sad 13-year-old girl into a painful soliloquy. Allie has lived a life filled with sadness: her twin brother, Tuck, died at the age of six and, as the story opens, her beloved father passes away unexpectedly. She has never been close to her mother, who becomes even more detached with her husband's death. Mother and daughter move to Minnesota to stay with her grandparents, a wise and loving grandfather, and a grandmother who can be both loving and vicious ('Don't you even miss your/ brother?' she spits'). There's also a powerful subplot involving an abusive teacher and two Indian students, one of whom also lost a parent and becomes a friend to Allie. Williams ably demonstrates that the biggest emotions can often be best expressed through the leanest of sentences ('I hate school/ and even though I still/ hate my mom/ I wish she would come home'). Her smooth pacing intersperses straightforward narrative with moments of surprising impact, as when Allie tells of the night she was at her father's bedside, when he died. The book is set in the 1960s, but the time frame is largely irrelevant the themes and situations know no era. Readers who have experienced loss will find tenacious strands of hope woven into Allie's poetry. Ages 14-up. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Julie Williams grew up in Nebraska and Minnesota, and she has been a writer for as long as she can remember. She has also been an actress, a secretary, a seamstress, and has held a whole host of other jobs. She now lives with her husband in Los Angeles, where she recently retired as an adjunct faculty member and assistant director of the Educational Opportunity Program at California State University, Northridge. This is her first novel.