Sunday, November 4, 2012

Firegirl by Tony Abbott

This slim realistic novel is about 7th grader Tom who learns to deal with fear and friendship when a new girl, Jessica Feeney with a face and body so horribly burned in an accident that her skin looks "melted," becomes a member of their class. The story centers around Tom and his friendship with Jeff whose parents recently divorced and has left Jeff madder than heck at the world. Jeff's anger has made him uncaring toward others, including Tom. Tom gets frustrated with Jeff's hate-the-world attitude but it isn't until Jeff acts cruel toward Jessica that Tom wonders about their friendship.

The characters didn't come alive for me in this book. The first person narrative was too limiting. I wanted to hear Jessica and Jeff's thoughts. Jeff didn't seem fleshed out enough. I wanted more in the chapter with the sports car. Jeff tries to care about Tom, going so far as to get his uncle to make a special trip so Tom can ride in his Cobra sports car, but his fear of Jessica made him run away. I found the half-finished unsaid sentences confusing and Jeff somewhat one-dimensional. I also needed more build-up with Jessica and Tom's friendship. I found Tom crying at the end unbelievable because they didn't know each other well enough. I also kept waiting for the teacher to show more wisdom when dealing with the students telling them how to react to the girl and treat her as normal, but that never happens. The teacher is just as uncomfortable as the students. One last thingy, although I think I am nitpicking. Jessica would not jump into a prayer circle when late for class and hold hands with two boys. She would have found two girls.

The plot doesn't have too many surprises. I liked the twist with Jessica's mom and how Jessica changes internally. Actually Courtney, Jessica, and Tom show nice changes while Jeff remains stuck. There is a small glimpse into his weekends with his dad that made me sympathetic. The ending is a tearjerker, but because I wasn't relating to the characters it didn't touch me. Maybe the story was a bit too short for me. I will have to recommend this to students who liked "Wonder" and see what they think.

3 out of 5 Smileys
Reading Level 4.1 / Fountas & Pinnell: V

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