Kenin is believable as Tom Bender, the seventh-grade narrator of this brief, affecting tale about how a young burn victim shakes up the lives of everyone around her. Tom, who describes himself as a chubby, sweaty kid that nobody really notices, inadvertently draws attention to himself by being the one person who shows small kindnesses to new classmate Jessica, a girl badly disfigured in a fire. Tom and Jessica begin to bond when Tom delivers her homework on a day that Jessica has been absent from school. But just as the friendship starts to take hold, Jessica and her family abruptly leave town to seek treatment for her at a hospital in a different city. Though Tom had known Jessica for only a short time, he now knows he's forever changed. Kenin conveys Tom's transformation, largely in a final conversation with Jessica, with an authentic-sounding emotional poignancy that is hard to forget. Ages 10-up. (May)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
When burn victim Jessica Feeney enters St. Catherine's school, she is almost too hideous to behold. Although Mrs. Tracy, the homeroom teacher attempts to prepare the students, no one is really ready for the shock of Jessica's appearance. Even though she is only in the school a few weeks, her presence and her ordeal changes the life of one student, Tom Bender. Told in first person, this is a powerful story of simple things and the complexities of being sensitive. Tom has a crush on Courtney, a beautiful classmate, and when Jessica becomes a part of the class, making an impression on his secret love becomes the driving force of Tom's life. Vying for utmost importance in Tom's life is the promise of his friend, Jeff, that they will both take a ride in Jeff's uncle's Cobra. However, after meeting Jessica and coming to understand her accident, Tom's perspective is radically changed. 2006, Little Brown, Ages 8 to 12.
Abbott, best known for several series for younger readers, creates in his first novel for young adults an affecting story about a middle school boy and his relationship with the new girl in his class. The cover, title, and premise of an outsider changing the life of a teen boy are reminiscent of Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl (Knopf, 2000/VOYA October 2000), but that is where the similarity ends. Abbott's heroine is outcast by her severe disfigurement and not choice. Tom and his classmates do not know how to react to Jessica, but when circumstances force Tom to visit her at home, his perception of her-and of his classmates-is radically altered. There is no simple ending to this story of how people respond when unimaginable tragedy strikes. Abbott proves that he is no mere series hack with this short but powerfully moving achievement. His masterful use of description evokes the depth of Jessica's suffering. A scene in the beginning where Tom and his friend burn a toy car juxtaposes hauntingly with the circumstances of the girl's gruesome accident. The complex relationship she has with her mother, who witnessed her daughter's transition from gifted beauty to shunned outsider but was unable to rescue her, is crystallized in one short paragraph involving a stuffed frog. Tom is, of course, changed forever by his brief friendship with Jessica, and readers will be too.
When a badly scarred girl shows up at St. Catherine's School, Tom Bender's seventh grade class is turned upside down. Even though she only stays for a short time, she teaches Tom a lesson about true beauty that he'll never forget. Written from Tom's point of view, Firegirl expresses the thoughts of a seventh grade boy who for the first time comes face to face with a situation where he must choose between doing the right thing or maintaining the popularity he has. Well-written and hauntingly realistic, Firegirl is a story that will stay with you for years to come.
Gr 5-7-Tom, a seventh grader, tells about the arrival of Jessica, a new student who was badly burned in a fire and is attending St. Catherine's while she gets treatments at a local hospital. The students in Tom's class are afraid of her because of her appearance but little by little he develops a friendship with her that changes his life. Through realistic settings and dialogue, and believable characters, readers will be able to relate to the social dynamics of these adolescents who are trying to handle a difficult situation. The students who shy away from Jessica are at a loss as to what to say. Tom begins to look beyond her exterior and realizes that his life will not be the same after she leaves, just three weeks later. The theme of acceptance is presented in a touching story of friendship that is easy to read yet hard to forget.-Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Seventh-grader Tom Bender is nowhere near the in-crowd at St. Catherine's Catholic School. He does, nonetheless, have a crush on popular Courtney, and he fantasizes about saving her from wild disasters. Tom's only friend Jeff is struggling to deal with his parents' divorce as well as his father's indifference, and Jeff does so by acting out and lying. Not long after the start of the school year, Jessica Feeney joins their class. She's a burn survivor who's in town for treatment. The students don't know how to act around her. Jeff finds her abhorrent; Courtney feels sorry for her. A little scared at first, Tom slowly gets to know Jessica and misses her when she leaves abruptly. His short friendship with Jessica has gotten him noticed by Courtney and has started to draw him out of his shell. Prolific fantasy author Abbott has created a realistic wallflower struggling to bloom. However, Tom's fantasies quickly become repetitive, and several logical inconsistencies keep this from being totally successful, despite its worthy messages. (Fiction 9-12)