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Author: Julius Lester

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Publisher: HarperTeen, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2008

Material: hard cover

Summary: In the town of Davis in 1946, life is very black and white. Blacks have their place, and whites rule it. Ansel Anderson (14) didn't think that way, but his father did. So did the town. As a result, Ansel and his best friend Willie Benton (14) must keep their friendship private. When Ansel and his father find the preacher's daughter murdered in church, Willie's father is blamed for the crime. Everyone knew Big Willie didn't kill Mary Susan, and Ansel demands that his father speak the truth. His father refused, afraid of the town's vengeance. Ansel kept silent, and cannot forgive himself for his choice. What will he do with all of that anger and pain? This is a young adult novel told from Ansel's point of view.

Type of Reading: independent reading, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 14 and Up; read yourself: 11 and Up

Interest Level: 13 and Up

Reading Level: 5.2

Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.

Adult Reader Reaction: Guardian is haunting. The story is extremely well written. It is both descriptive and so raw that it is uncomfortable to read. That is what I liked about it. The book addresses social issues and mature themes (rape, lynching). Highly recommended as a must-read for teens and adults.

Pros: Your emotions and your thinking will be stretched in new directions as you walk alongside Ansel and Willie in this powerful novel.

Cons: There is an historical context, with details about lynching in the story and later at the end of the book. There is also a character who is a serial rapist.

Borrow or Buy: Buy. This is a book that you'll read and want to share with someone so that you can talk about its impact on you.

If You Liked This Book, Try: OUT OF BOUNDS: Seven Stories of Conflict and Hope   FORGE (Seeds of America)   SPIES OF MISSISSIPPI, The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement

Educational Themes: The obvious theme in the story is racism, but there are others that are easily drawn out: entitlement, courage, neglect, friendship, and prejudice, among others. Given the details of the Davis, Benton, and Anderson families, you might talk about what healthy relationship are / are not. Last but not least, explore Willie and Ansel's friendship. Was it a true friendship? Should there have been forgiveness?

Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.

Literary Categories: Fiction - young adult, historical fiction, Black History, family, coming of age, 1940s, multicultural, middle grade

Date(s) Reviewed: December 2015

Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at and


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