First thought: Ahhh! This book LOOKS SO COOL. I think the term “documentary novel” (or, as I like to call it, “docu-novel”) is being tossed around about this book, because Wiles intertwines her story with images, advertisements, speeches, and song lyrics from the early 60’s. My short attention span was so grateful to have black and white photos with large bold text to look at in between (short) chapters. This book is absolutely a joy to flip through.
The story is set in 1962, where our narrator, Franny, is learning to duck and cover at school, for the Cuban Missle Crisis is in full-swing. In addition to worrying about being blown up by the Soviets, Franny has other issues to deal with — her PTSD-stricken uncle, who is stuck in the trenches of WWI, her budding flower child older sister, running away to secret meetings and joining the Civil Rights Movement, her perfect younger brother who cannot tell a lie, the cute boy down the street who actually talks to her, and her (former) best friend who has completely turned her back on her and starts openly mocking her in school. A lot to deal with. And, oh Franny, it’ll all be okay.
I really like Franny. Franny may have been catapulted into my top 10 favorite young girl narrators. I want to give Franny a hug. And I applaud her for not losing her mind despite the mess she’s in.
I wonder though, if children will embrace this novel as fully as I have. I think this is definitely a niche novel; it’ll appeal to a certain type of reader, but I’m not sure if it has that universal appeal that makes a novel truly great (in my opinion). It’ll be interesting to see this novel’s progress. Some kids might be turned off by the images strewn throughout the book (it may be too much of an interruption; too “nonfiction-ey”.) This kid was not.