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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's an intense scene where Mare fights her mother's boyfriend; there is also some drinking of hard alcohol. The racist treatment of African-Americans during this time period is offensive (but historically accurate). Mare is an admirable, but by no means perfect, character.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Fifteen-year-old Octavia and her 17-year-old sister Tali must drive across the country with their stiletto shoes-wearing, cigarette-smoking grandmother, who insists they call her by her first name, Mare. Neither teen is happy about it, but both are slowly drawn into Mare's stories about her own youth, when she ran away from her poor Alabama home at 16 and joined the Women's Army Corps. In alternating chapters, the narration switches from their road trip to Mare's first-person account of her time in training and then in service overseas with an African American WAC unit.
Is it any good?
Teens might relate more to Octavia and Tali, but Mare's story is the more compelling as she transforms from a poor farm girl to buff soldier. Her African-American WAC experiences highlight a rarely seen side of World War II, inspired by the author's research into her own grandmother's life. Davis keeps the history personal and fresh with Mare's strong voice.
The contrast between the whiny, spoiled contemporary teens and their hard-working grandmother is often jarring; readers may find themselves skimming the "now" chapters to reach the next "then."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about segregation and the treatment of African-Americans before the Civil Rights movement.
Octavia and Tali have never heard about African-American women serving
in the military before; what does this say about how American history
is taught in school?
Mare says, "Talking about segregation isn't as
nice and neat as talking about being the 'greatest generation' that won
the war. For some folks, it's just stirring up bad memories." Do you
For kids who love Great African American stories
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.