A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this coming-of-age story celebrates independent spirits and open hearts. And it helps teens keep
the everyday embarrassments of high school life in perspective. Janie is independent, smart, and -- despite her worries over fitting in -- confident. She is also politically aware and involved, as is her friend and family: Teens may learn a great deal about the civil rights struggle, social and
environmental justice, and women in history. It's pretty tame for young adult fare -- no cursing, violence, or sexual content. The main character does go to jail, but it's a humorous, well-intentioned escapade.
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What's the story?
In elementary school, living on a farm was a social boon for Janie Gorman. But now that she's a high school freshman, being Farm Girl means she's different. Weird different. She's the girl who comes to school smelling like goat poop, or with hay in her hair. She desperately wants to feel she's "living large," as her best friend Sarah's older sister advocates. Janie and Sarah join the Jam Band, hoping to find a way to fit in and meet cute boys, and work together on an intriguing project about unsung heroes of the civil rights movement living in their community. What she learns helps put her embarrassment in perspective, and realize that normal is overrated.
Is it any good?
Independent-minded young teens will find kindred spirits to love and admire in this engaging novel. Janie's wry, self-aware voice is refreshingly high-spirited, even when she's at her most miserable. There isn't much drama to her coming-of-age story: no sweeping romances, no action-packed climax, no high-intensity decision point. But the small pieces come together for an insightful, authentic look at a teen girl figuring out what kind of life she wants to lead.
The characters' maturity may strain credibility a bit. Even the rebellious, grounded-for-staying-out-way-past-curfew-with-her-biker-boyfriend character is a stand-up kid with a strong moral compass. Janie also often seems much older than her years: She acknowledges strong feelings for a dear, older friend while swiftly realizing she isn't ready to date a man with his own apartment. Even so, her desire for acceptance is in tune with her age -- and will resonate with the tween and teen readers drawn into her quirky story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about books and movies about misfit kids. How many others can you think of? Why is this such a popular theme in media?
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