The Laura Line

328p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-199274-2. LC 2012022165.
Gr 6–8—Eighth-grader Laura Dyson loves baseball, fashion, and Troy Bailey, the cutest boy in her class. Even the endless taunts of "Fat Larda" from resident queen bee Sunny Rasmussen aren't enough to sink her spirits. Laura's parents are departing for military training and she looks forward to spending two weeks with fabulous Aunt Carmen. Then the plan shifts and she is packed off to her grandmother's rundown farm that has, of all things, an intact slave shack. Deeply ashamed of the degradation and cruelty the shack represents, Laura wants nothing to do with it. Knowing Grandma's eagerness to share the significance of the structure and the adjacent family cemetery, the "Laura Line," the teen dreads the visit. When history teacher Mrs. Jacobs proposes a field trip to see the slave shack and cemetery, Laura is mortified by the idea and schemes to get it canceled. But in the ensuing antics, she finds she is descended from a powerful line of women going all the way back to the slave ship Amistad. While a side plot concerning Laura's irritating best friend feels a little forced, the protagonist's emotional transformation will resonate with readers. Generational bonds, notably the growth of the relationship between Laura and her grandmother, are beautifully depicted. With its humor and deep reverence for history, Allen's novel is an engaging treatment of the oft-told tale of looking within for beauty and strength.—Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA

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