Here is a perfect example of the reason why I love going to the public library to browse books. Yes I get invited to a few previews every year, and yes I try to keep up with the professional journals, but nothing will ever replace browsing a shelf. I am taken with titles and covers and upon reading the blurbs I decide what to check out. On my last trip, I picked up this gem of a novel and am eager to share it with you.
Delores, or Itch as she's known to her family, has been living with her Gram and Gramps since her mom decided to leave. She's a girl who collects favourite words, does some serious thinking on her swing in the backyard, loves hanging out with her best friend Bailey, and is a bit of a kindred spirit with her Gramps. When Gramps dies, Itch is upset that Gram wants to move up to Ohio and leave every single memory of him behind.
Once in Ohio, Itch gets a bit of sunshine when she sees that the county fair starts that night. When she goes to check out the grounds on the way to the local Woolworth's, she is beckoned over by a girl in a sequins outfit and Shirley Temple hair who needs help with a zipper. Little does she know that this is the beginning of a complicated friendship between the two.
Once school starts, Itch is eager to be Gwendolyn's (or Wendy as she's known at school) official friend, which is hard since she is friends with popular girls Anna Marie and Connie and she attends lots of dance classes. But once Itch gets her mind to something, she stays true to it, and soon Itch and Gwendolyn are hanging out. Gwendolyn's other friends are surprised when Itch says she's been up to Wendy's room...most of her friends aren't allowed over. Itch wonders why that is, but soon she begins noticing some things about Wendy that just don't seem right. Will Itch have to courage to ask the hard questions and expose what is going on?
Michelle D. Kwasney has written a poignant story that packs a punch. Family structures, friendship boundaries, the realities of abuse are all explored with aplomb. The dialogue between the middle schoolers of the 1960s rings true, and Itch's relationship with her Grams grows so nicely throughout the book, readers will feel privileged to get to witness it. Gwendolyn and her mother's relationship is harder to look at, but Kwasney does it right. The frightening aspects of the abuse are not overdone, but they do not all appear off page either. The amazing thing is that this doesn't feel like a message book...it simply is a great story about two families.