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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Tom is a sweaty, overweight kid at a Catholic school. His best friend is Jeff, who is angry about his parents' divorce and his dad's disinterest. Tom has a crush on pretty, popular Courtney, and dreams of rescuing her as a superhero. An ordinary kid in an ordinary life.
Then his class gets a new student, Jessica, who has been severely disfigured in a fire, and who is in town for skin grafts at the hospital. None of the children know how to deal with her, and Jeff is angry about her mere existence. Wild rumors about her circulate around the school. But Tom gradually establishes a tentative relationship with her during the short time she is in school, a few weeks that change everything.
Is it any good?
If effort toward becoming a better person, coupled with introspective self-examination and criticism, are the hallmarks of adulthood, then this gentle, touching novel is a true coming-of-age story.
Though the title is FIREGIRL, this poignant little book isn't about Jessica, the disfigured burn victim. It's about Tom, and how he tries to deal with her presence in his class and neighborhood, and how doing so changes everything in his life. It's a story in which, as Tom himself says as narrator, "It wasn't much, really, the whole Jessica Feeney thing. If you look at it, nothing much happened." In terms of physical events, or plot, he's right. What happens is inside him, and that's what author Tony Abbott delicately chronicles.
Tom is nothing special, just a good kid trying to do his best. And that seems to be the real point -- that goodness is a struggle, and even with the best will in the world it's hard to be sure we've done all we can, or should, do. In trying to be a person, Tom doesn't end up miserable or triumphant, or guilty or satisfied -- he's just changed, in ways that will, no doubt, continue to resonate through his life.