Crossing Ebenezer Creek

240p. Bloomsbury. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781599903194.
RedReviewStarGr 7 Up—In 1864, teenager Mariah and the other African Americans living in slavery on her plantation are freed by Union forces and encouraged to begin following General Sherman's march through Georgia. Caleb assists Mariah as she prepares to join the march. Caleb and Mariah are immediately attracted to each other but are hesitant to express their feelings, so their relationship evolves slowly. Their pasts make trusting people difficult, and their presents make clear that freedom solves many problems but doesn't erase racism. As the march nears Savannah, travel becomes difficult and some of the Union officers start seeing those following their march as a liability. The resulting tragedy at Ebenezer Creek has largely been forgotten but is retold here as a powerful message to present-day readers. The refrain "colored lives don't matter" creates resonance with current events. This phrase is backed up by discussion of overt violence against the African American characters (including rape). The author is known primarily as a writer of nonfiction, and her skills as a researcher enhance a subject for which there is limited source material. The well-executed premise, a compelling love story, and unique historical details will appeal to fans of Ruta Sepetys's Salt to the Sea.
VERDICT This moving and engrossing portrayal of a little-known historical tragedy belongs on all YA shelves.

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