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.