One True Way

224p. Scholastic. Feb. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781338181722.
Gr 4–7—When a friendship between two girls in a small 1970s Southern town grows into something more, the community reacts in ways that will resonate with many youths today. After her older brother's death and parents' separation, seventh grader Allie Drake moves with her mother to rural North Carolina. She is taken under the wing of Samantha "Sam" Johnson, a confident, popular, gender nonconforming girl. A keenly observant aspiring reporter, Allie notices and wonders about those around her, using in-depth profiles in the school paper to get to know her new classmates. (Strangely, while several students open up to her about deeply personal topics that make them feel different from their peers, the single non-white character in the story never mentions race as a factor in his life.) As it becomes clear that she and Sam are in love, Allie is baffled by the unpredictable responses of family and friends, particularly the discomfort of her mother who has been vocally supportive of her lesbian teachers and gay uncle, and the unexpected support and acceptance from others. The sweetness of the girls' tender feelings for one another contrasts with the fear and secrecy they realize they must live with. Clear, unfussy writing and expert pacing will keep readers absorbed in this appealing novel that strikes a balance between being character- and plot-driven.
VERDICT Compassionate and engaging, this may be a work of historical fiction but its depiction of prejudice remains relevant. Highly recommended for middle grade collections.

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