We're honored to have Lyn here as part of the rgz SALON, a feature where top kidlit experts clue us in to the best YA novels they've read recently. Today, she reviews Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon (Simon & Schuster, 2011) and The Trouble With Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante (Putnam, 2011):
"In the first year of my MFA program, I wrote a YA novel about a 14-year-old girl who takes a number of risks in order to help a boy she wants as a friend. As a result of my own project, I’ve been drawn recently to novels about other tween and teen girls who also get involved in the troubled and perhaps dangerous lives of younger boys. Two of those books, Kekla Magoon’s Camo Girl and Danette Vigilante’s The Trouble with Half a Moon portray young protagonists who are, like mine, biracial or bicultural.
The Rock and the River, explores a 12-year-old girl’s conflict between her loyalty to her oldest friend and her one chance to become popular. Shunned by most of her classmates and teased for her vitiligo, more visible because it’s on her face and she’s biracial—African American and white—sixth grader Ella Cartwright finds companionship in Z, a white boy who lives in a fantasy world. Z used to be Ella’s neighbor and consoled her when her father died, but his life fell apart after his father abandoned the family, his house was foreclosed, and he and his mother started to sleep at the Wal-Mart where she works. When the handsome, outgoing new student Bailey—the only other black student in the class—wants to be Ella’s friend, she begins to neglect Z in favor of Bailey and his friends.
"Ella feels guilty when she pulls back from Z, and her abandonment of him sets off a spiral of events that lead him into danger and she and Bailey following in a last-ditch effort to save him. Did she, in fact, betray her oldest friend for the cool new kid? Is she responsible for what happens to Z, or are his problems beyond her ability to fix? Camo Girl addresses these questions in a way that is poignant and realistic, leaving much for the reader to think about in terms of standing up, fitting in, and our responsibility to each other.
"Pitch perfect dialogue and strong, complex characterizations made this debut novel a gripping story from the very beginning. Vigilante does a good job of creating a five-year-old boy who acts his age and reveals only enough to get what he needs without drawing too much attention to himself and provoking more abuse. Little Corey, in fact, becomes a flashpoint in the conflict between Dellie and her friend, which grows out of her friend’s relationship with a boy with whom Dellie does not get along. As in Camo Girl, the climax of The Trouble with Half a Moon comes when Dellie’s devotion to the younger boy puts her own life in danger as well as his, and she learns the limits of her love and protection." -Lyn Miller-Lachmann