Vera Dietz loves Charlie Kahn more than anyone. She loves him more than anyone else loves him, and she also loves him more than she's ever loved anyone. Too bad she also hates him. And worse yet, she started to hate him even before he died and left her. Vera and Charlie grew up as neighbors and best friends. They were both pretty much outcasts with too many shameful secrets. But as Vera tried harder and harder to stay invisible in high school, Charlie ended up popular and deviant.
Some things they had in common: drinking (though Vera's addiction began after Charlie's death); secrets (they knew each others and swore to never tell); moms (both of theirs had always been emotionally nonexistent); fear and insecurity.
Some things that made them different: Charlie liked the spotlight, Vera liked shadows; Charlie had to run from trouble after he ran headfirst right smack into it, Vera saw trouble coming and tried to avoid it; Charlie is dead; Vera is alive; Charlie knows his final secret, Vera needs to find it and tell the whole story.
This story is really good, and I'm grateful for however I heard about it. I cried at the end, but not because I was happy or sad, just that I was glad for some final emotional peace. It was awarded with a Printz Honor and deserved it. Recommended to all high school readers -- there's lots of drinking, swearing, and general rough stuff (just the way I like it).
Reviewed by kate the librarian.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
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