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A Book A Week: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
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I know a lot of people who read young adult (YA) fiction. Most are mothers of middle and high school girls who started reading it because they wanted to share the reading experience with their daughters. But I know this isn't the full story; YA is too popular among adults to be only the province of a certain group of women.

I have tried to read a few popular YA books without much success (including The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, and Un Lun Dun, by China Mieville). In most cases I just found it too difficult to identify with an adolescent narrator. Yet I have no trouble with J. K. Rowling's books, so obviously it's not always a problem for me.

I'm thinking about this because I just finished Heidi W. Durrow's The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, which features an adolescent narrator, but which deals with sophisticated issues of identity, race, substance abuse and depression. Now I am wondering what makes a book a YA novel. Is it the age of the narrator? The subject matter? Or just the marketing plan? I don't know the answer.

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is the story of Rachel, daughter of a Danish mother and an African American father. Raised in Europe, where her father was a career U.S. serviceman, Rachel must go live with her African American grandmother in Portland, Oregon, after the death of her mother and siblings. It is there that she learns about being biracial as she navigates middle school, then high school, with her black hair and blue eyes. She must also deal with the loss of her mother. The circumstances of her death and the deaths of Rachel's siblings add some mystery and drama to the story.

This is a quick read. Rachel is not a terribly complex girl. The more interesting characters are her grandmother and aunt, and the version of Rachel's mother that we see filtered through the lens of Rachel's memories.

I got a little mixed up at the end of the book -- were there some loose ends? Or did I just not read carefully enough? No matter -- I still enjoyed it a lot. I don't believe this book is marketed as YA, but it would be an excellent choice for a high school reader, and even a mature middle schooler. It would also be a good book for a mother and daughter to read together.


Becky Holmes blogs about books at A Book A Week.

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