Janie, a quirky vintage-clad ninth grader struggles to fit in at high school. She hides out in the library at lunch, talks only to her best friend, Sarah, and escapes home to the farm after school each day. After two months of trying to find a place to fit in at the high school, Janie meets Verbena, a new lunch friend in the library, and she meets up with Monster Monroe, a tall, red-headed sixteen- year-old guy who definitely marches to the beat of his own drum. Monster talks Janie and her best friend, Sarah, into joining jam band. Sarah decides jam band is not for her, but Janie begins to find a place to feel accepted. A slight crack begins to form in their steadfast friendship as a result of their growing pains.
“And all of a sudden, I felt larger. Not taller, not heavier, not physically bigger. Larger on the inside. Like suddenly—how do I say this?—I felt like life had possibilities I hadn’t been aware of five seconds before.”
With the assistance of Emma, Sarah’s older sister, Janie and Sarah begin work on a project that broadens the girls’ knowledge of civil rights and works in an excellent lesson on intergenerational relationships. All three girls learn some valuable lessons about the Freedom School, a literacy school where African Americans were taught to read and write in order to vote.
I really enjoyed the fresh, bouncy voice with which Dowell imbues her characters. The freshness is offset by the quirkiness, particularly in Janie and Monster. The story is a fun, light-hearted coming of age story that turns out well for everyone.