FICTION

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All

HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Oct. 2019. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062317643.
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Gr 9 Up–Ruby’s first young adult novel since her Printz Award–winning Bone Gap is a feminist historical ghost story that is based on the author’s mother-in-law’s childhood experiences in a World War II–era Chicago orphanage. In 1941, after losing his wife and struggling to support his family, Frankie’s Italian immigrant father “temporarily” sends his three adolescent children to a Catholic orphanage. However, he soon remarries and moves away, taking only one of his children. Frankie and her sister, Toni, are left under the watch of the iron-fisted nuns with their oppressive rules. Frankie dreams of growing her hair past her ears, becoming an artist, and falling in love. She never suspects that someone unseen is actually watching over her and longing to protect her: the ghost of a teenage girl, Pearl, dead since 1918, who haunts the orphanage. As Frankie wishes for freedom, Pearl longs to have an impact on the physical world. And Pearl, like Frankie, has been let down by her family, been treated as a commodity, and suffered great loss. Each girl draws strength from her hardships, however, and refuses to submit to those who would control her. Some sexual content and brief, yet disturbing descriptions of violence make this title most appropriate for older readers.
VERDICT Powerful plotting, masterful character development, and a unique narrative device set this work apart. Make room on the shelf next to Code Name Verity and The Book Thief

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