"The summer I turned thirteen, I thought I killed a man." So begins the story of Jessilyn Lassiter, a young girl whose world is torn apart the summer of 1932.
When Jessilyn's best friend, Gemma, loses her parents in a tragic fire, Jessilyn's father vows to care for her as his own, despite the fact that Gemma is black and prejudice is prevalent in their southern Virginia town.
It doesn't take long for the Lassiters to attract the attention of a local band of Ku Klux Klan members, who make increasingly violent threats on Jessilyn and her family.
As she struggles to navigate a complex world of first crushes, loyalties, and betrayals, Jessilyn ultimately discovers what it takes to be a bright light in a dark world.
My Review: Even though this novel is a few years old, I picked it up because it won the Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel Contest in 2007. I love to read first books by authors to see what that special spark was that catches an agent, editor, or contest judge's eye.
I definitely saw the spark in this book.
This coming-of-age story was beautifully written and I felt an immediate connection to thirteen-year-old Jessilyn, a spunky tomboy whose loyalty to her colored friend, Gemma, brings about danger for herself and her family.
The book's theme and some relationships in the story reminded me of that famous high school read, To Kill A Mockingbird. Freshly told and at times suspenseful, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Those who enjoy a light spiritual touch will appreciate this book.
The first-person point-of-view allowed the reader to glimpse Jessilyn's personality intimately, yet I would have liked to also have seen more of Gemma.
I'm looking forward to reading Valent's next two books, Cottonwood Whispers, and Catching Moondrops (how can I resist such beautiful titles?) which continue Jessilyn's story. All in all, a wonderful read!
Visit Jennifer's website at http://jennifervalent.com/