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The Boox Review

A completely engrossing, deftly written, character-centric coming of age novel for young adults, is set in the rural U.S. South a century ago. Narrated by the tomboy title character, this is a story about growing up, yes, but more than that, herein readers are treated to hefty themes of friendship, racism, and loss — and love as well.

Most of all, though, this is a tale about courage.

Cline keeps the pace brisk, and the pages turning, drawing readers in with a strong female lead who never fails to engage:

“I was born to be a teller of stories. Mama says I've been a chronicler of local events since I was “four going on forty.” I'm twenty years old, this summer of 1918, but I've already had some of my poems and short stories published in fancy Yankee magazines. I write about what I know, the heart and soul of rural Alabama. I cherish the slow, clean fires of hickory coals, the whirring wings of yellowhammers, and the people of Village Springs, those who cling to the bosom of the earth for their survival. Some that haven't survived now lie buried beneath overgrown honeysuckle vines and fig tress. Their untold tale is part of mine.

My given name is Sadie Lou Sheridan, but I'll only answer to my nickname, Pug. The diminutive suits me fine, though I'm not sure who first called me that, or why. Daddy says it was in answer to my short, turned-up nose. Mamau Maude, Daddy's mama, says my name fits my pugnacious personality.”

Poignancy bounces from every page of this remarkable book — carrying over (not surprisingly) even into Cline's Author's Note, in which she remarks:

“Finally, to any young readers who might be holding this book in their hands, a special message: To caretake the future, it is important to know what has gone before, not just the polished facts, but an understanding of the human toll that resulted from individual and cultural choices. Versions of Pug's tale could be (and are) played out any number of ways across the world. In actuality, it is only the time and place that change, or as Pug would say, the characters remain as ‘interchangeable actors wearing the same wretched masks.'

It is this writer's great hope that Pug Sheridan will serve as a lighted signpost, reflecting the patch toward a brighter, more peaceful tomorrow by marking some of yesterday's detours.”

is a signpost and lighted beacon both, burning evermore brightly than the nighttime sky's most dominant star.