Growing Up too Fast

By Norman Boucher / November / December 2002
June 28th, 2007
Two historical novels published for young readers this year feature girls on the verge of adolescence forced by tragic circumstances to grow up far too fast. Thirteen-year-old Cesa, a mid-nineteenth-century Mexican born in what is now California, learns early in Daughter of Madrugada by Frances M. Wood '73 (Delacorte, $15.95) that the end of the Spanish-American War means her family's vast ranch is now on American soil. Immediately afterward, when the gold rush brings a stream of Americans to California, Cesa watches helplessly as her land is taken and her family torn apart.

In Where the Ground Meets the Sky by Jacqueline Davies '84 (Marshall Cavendish, $14.95), twelve-year-old Hazel moves with her family to Los Alamos, where her father works on the Manhattan Project, helping develop the world's first atomic bomb. As the purpose of the project becomes clear, Hazel's idealistic mother, who encourages her daughter to approach every decision by asking who will be helped by it and who will be hurt, sinks into a deep depression. Hazel struggles to remain a child while caring for her parents and living in a world at war at the outset of the nuclear age. The lives of these two protagonists make vivid the personal dramas triggered by irresistible historical change as well as the cost to the young of adapting to the upheavals that grown-ups force upon them.

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November / December 2002