How many times in my life have I heard the phrase, “Kids are resilient?” I have said it myself, but in reading The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins, I see how hollow and insufficient those words can be.
Lyndie is a character who is not unlike one of our favorite characters in literature, Scout Finch. At 11, she is a little older than the character from To Kill a Mockingbird, but a self-awareness and strident personality shines through along with a thirst for knowledge and a straight moral compass. However, Lyndie is faced with different challenges while growing up in 1980s Tennessee. Her father has been recently laid off, and the family has been forced to sell their house and move in with Lyndie’s grandparents. Her mother is mired in depression-like symptoms and her father is trying to drink away the pain of his service in the Vietnam War. Her grandmother, Lady, is caught between putting on a straight face for her granddaughter and ignoring the strife in her house, and trying to fix two parents in pain.
And there is the normal daily life of a 7th grader that Lyndie is trying to navigate. She has conflicts with her best friend, Dawn, and a new boy named DB who has moved in with Dawn’s family. They all go to Convenant Academy, a place that at times is too strict for Lyndie’s taste. Her life is filled with so many interests; she’s a student of history and a person who cares deeply for animals and people in need. She possesses a wise voice that in some ways is wise beyond her years.
At one point, I thought that Shepherd was trying to pack too much into this book. Too many characters and conflicts for Lyndie to try to manage, but that’s what makes it realistic. Kids experience these trials and at times hear and see things they are not suppose to, but Lyndie is unmovable and fights back against each challenge.
Shepherd has written a book that looks sharply at a family in trouble and a strong girl who finds a way to rise through the storm.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin Young Readers, and Gail Shepherd for the advanced copy for review.