Saturday, September 20, 2008

Book Review: Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth. (Grades 5-7.)

Violet plans to spend the summer with her best friend Lottie, hanging out in their small town of Mitchell Hammock, FL. Violet and Lottie have been best friends forever and as far as Violet's concerned, nothing should ever change between them. And when new girl Melissa arrives from Detroit, Violet dislikes her immediately. Melissa wears makeup, watches soap operas, and hates getting dirty. When Lottie starts to hang out with Melissa, Violet is jealous and tries to stop it. Why can't things be the way they've always been?

The first line of this book really hooked me:

When Eddie B. dared me to walk the net bridge over the Elijah Hatchett River where we'd seen an alligator and another kid got bit by a coral snake, I wasn't scared - I just didn't feel like doing it right then.

I wanted to know this sassy girl who may or may not be afraid to walk the net bridge over the Elijah Hatchett River. Violet is a girl clinging to childhood. Why not? Her childhood has been good to her. Eating dinner at her best friend Lottie's house. Hiking in the woods with Eddie. Reading books from the library's bookmobile. Watching the storms roll in and judging how far away the lightning strikes are.

But at some point, you have to grow up. And growing up is all about changing. When our story takes place it's the summer before junior high starts. The end of elementary school, the beginning of something new. Violet is only going to cross that bridge kicking and screaming, but she'll have to cross it eventually. And when she does, she might just find that she has a little help.

Besides Violet's spunky character, I really liked the setting of this novel. It's set in small town Florida, muggy and hot. Haworth's descriptions of the town and the neighborhoods and the wilderness really brought everything to life. I could taste the electricity in the air as a storm rolled in. I could feel the mud squishing under my shoes as the kids explored the creek and looked out for alligators.

As I was reading, Violet kept reminded me of Shug by Jenny Han. I suppose it's because it deals with that same time in a girl's life: entering junior high, that moment when a boy friend might possibly become a boyfriend, when everything seems to change over the course of a summer and you can't ever go back. I'd also hand Violet to fans of Heartbeat and Just as Long as We're Together (do girls still read that book? It was a favorite of mine when I was 11...).

Read more reviews at Literate Lives, Welcome to my Tweendom, The Reading Zone. And of course you want to know that Danette Haworth has her own blog and website (woohoo!).