Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Ballad of Jessie Pearl by Shannon Hitchcock

genre: young adult historical fiction

For fourteen year old Jessie, life revolves around three things: her family, her school and their farm.  What she wants more than anything is to be a teacher but right after our story begins, her sister's sickness forces her to leave school to cook, clean, and watch over the sickroom.

Set in 1920s North Carolina, Jessie's story is sparse and emotionally charged. Her sense of duty is so passionate and yet her desires to just be a teenager:  to be in love, learning and exploring the world - they are all there too, just as strong. She's a powerful force without being perfect or too dramatic.  I felt drawn to her love of her family, especially of her older sisters.  Her romance is sweet and feels so right for the time period and I loved that she had to make hard choices and do hard, grown-up things.  I think that part can especially resonate with girls today.

The setting is more of a backdrop than a central force, but it's always there, the farm, its needs.  And I think that Tuberculosis is such a horrible disease, we forget how devastating it was, how isolating and scary.  I also love that this book was based on the experiences of the author's family, it makes it feel even more tangible.  I really enjoyed this read.

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