Written from the perspective of a sheltered teen growing up during the Cold War, this book vividly shows the detrimental effects of unleashed suspicions and widespread fear. High school freshman Genevieve, a native of Easton, N.C., is well aware of the destructive power of hurricanes and knows how to prepare for a storm. But now, teachers and her parents-especially her father, who "hung on every word from the mouth of Senator McCarthy"-warn of a greater threat: Communists, who might unleash a nuclear bomb at any moment. Like most of her classmates, Genevieve accepts what grownups tell her about the evil intentions of Communists and obediently goes through the steps of Civil Defense drills at her school. She doesn't begin to consider that the "truths" she has been taught may be slanted until she meets newcomer Brenda Wompers, whose ideas about science and politics are as radical as her doubts about God's existence. As Krisher (Spite Fences) traces Genevieve's awakening to ideas that contradict her conservative parents' beliefs, the author also paints a vibrant picture of Senator McCarthy's influence on American society during the 1950s. If the story's blatant political message leaves little room for teens to draw their own conclusions, Genevieve's personal dilemma of extracting fact from hype, and being pulled in two directions, comes across more effectively. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
It's the Cold War, and Genevieve's coastal North Carolina town is turned upside down by the arrival of Brenda Wompers and her family, exiles from Hollywood after being blacklisted as Communists in Senator McCarthy's witch hunt. Genevieve is caught between her father's staunch conservatism (he buys a TV just so he can watch Senator McCarthy's televised hearings and is planning to build a bomb shelter to protect his family from a Russian attack) and Brenda's ultra-liberalism (the Wompers family challenge the Civil Defense curriculum taught in the public schools as well as the insertion of "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance). Krisher's story could be better paced: two crucial and long-awaited developments (Gen's ultimate brave signing of Brenda's petition and the school's initial reaction to Brenda's incendiary science project) take place offstage, mentioned only in flashback. But Krisher excels at presenting the conflict of this particular "culture war" with all its complexity. Even as Gen admires Brenda's courage in speaking the truth about the futile Civil Defense program, she resists Brenda's dogmatic atheism; if the Wompers' family members are in some sense the heroes of the story, they are not without the flaws of their own arrogance and intolerance. Krisher is to be congratulated for her fairness in resisting simplistic dichotomies about this disturbing chapter of American history.
Genevieve must face her ninth-grade year alone. Her best friend Sally has moved; her cousin Wills is allowed to stay home after completing eighth grade. Her father is obsessed with hurricanes, Communists, and preparing for a nuclear attack. Her mother tries to be the perfect housewife and Tupperware consultant. Gen doesn't quite know what to make of the new girl Brenda Wompers or her liberal-thinking parents. When Brenda is assigned as Gen's Algebra tutor, a hesitant friendship forms. But Brenda's parents begin to question the school's required Civil Defense courses, and the rumor mill of the small town begins to grind. An assigned project on the Salem witch trials shows Gen that the climate of insecurity that fed the suspicions in Massachusetts in the 1600s was not that different from the climate of insecurity in North Carolina in the 1950s. Krishner has done a remarkable job developing characters that, through their own social struggles, personify the distrust and suspicion that often prevailed during this period in our nation's history. Middle and high school readers will relate to Gen as she reconciles the hypocrisies she sees in friends and family with the faith to which she clings.
Gr 7 Up-The threat of a hurricane in the small coastal community of Easton, NC, is only part of the fallout that Genevieve faces as she begins her freshman year in high school in 1954. Her father listens intently to the words of Senator Joseph McCarthy and plans to build a fallout shelter in the backyard. He issues daily warnings to Genevieve and her mother about the Communists in America. Then Genevieve meets Brenda Wompers, a new girl from California who is outspoken and liberal, and a new kind of fallout occurs. The town is simply not ready for the Wompers when they lodge a protest against the school's civil-defense curriculum and request that the dangers of atomic testing be taught instead. Finally, Gen must make a decision about how far to take her new friendship with Brenda before she faces personal fallout with her classmates and family. The Wompers leave town, but not before Brenda helps Genevieve understand that neither things nor people are easy to define. This is an excellent novel for teens searching for a good story with a well-paced and action-filled plot that challenges them to think about the importance of voicing their opinions. The characters are interesting and consistent with the time and place of the novel. Genevieve's self-discovery might be compared to Karen Cushman's main character in The Loud Silence of Francine Green (Clarion, 2006), also set during the McCarthy era.-Pat Scales, South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Opening with Hurricane Carol and closing with Hurricane Hazel, Krisher explores the storms of human nature and the "human tendency to factions and cliques, to whisperings and rumors, to control and power." It's a story of witches, in the McCarthy witch-hunts, in the Salem witch trials studied in school and in the meanness of high-school cliques. When freshman Genevieve meets outspoken Brenda Wompers from California, where her father lost his job due to his association with an accused communist, she is torn between her desire to fit in quietly and the responsibility of speaking up. Though the dialogue and plot are often purposive, and the abundance of figurative language borders on overwriting, the story is an important one, and the lesson Genevieve learns-that "Salem was in our nature"-will linger in readers' minds. A rich novel full of topics for discussion and a good match with Ellen Levine's Catch a Tiger by the Toe (2005) and Karen Cushman's The Loud Silence of Francine Green (August 2006). (timeline) (Fiction. 12-15)