Revolution, by Deborah Wiles published in 2014 by Scholastic Press 544 pages
Of all the new novels I read last year, Revolution is definitely in my top three.
It’s the superb, second installment in Deborah Wiles’ Sixties Trilogy, coming on the heels of Countdown. These are books you should not miss if you are age 11 or older.
The format of this series is being called “documentary novel” and it is brilliant. Interspersed with the pages of narrative are sections of black-and-white, scrapbook-style pages featuring historic photos, advertisement slogans, song lyrics, posters, speech excerpts, ephemera — visually arresting composites which help throw us back into the era.
While Countdown‘s story was built around the Cuban Missile Crisis, Revolution moves a few years farther into the Sixties decade and tackles Freedom Summer, 1964. You don’t have to read them in order, but there is one cross-over character between the two books who is perhaps a little more satisfying to follow in chronological order.
This story takes place in Greenwood, Mississippi. Sunny, a 12-year-old white girl, and Raymond, a black boy who lives in the “colored” division of town, begin the summer with entirely different backgrounds and perspectives. As the town is “invaded” by summer volunteers dedicated to helping black citizens register to vote, Sunny is exposed to a much broader, and far more ugly side of reality than she has known. Choosing how to respond to these events is weighty for both black and white members of Greenwood society, with life-and-death at stake.
The immense power of this book comes from the way Deborah Wiles creates characters who are real, who readily touch our hearts and compel us to see them through their journey, then plunks them into a setting that rings true with every perfect detail she lays down. She has made racism feel and sound and look as bitter as it is, and made friendship, justice, loyalty feel as solid, and heartbreaking, and magnificent as they are. She immerses us in this place and moment in a palpable, personal way. I think you will find it hard to put down.
It’s already a National Book Award finalist. I dearly hope it’s in the Newbery circle this year. This has my highest recommendation for middle grade through adult. Personally, I can hardly wait for her final installment in the trilogy.
Follow it up with Susan Goldman Rubin’s non-fiction work on Freedom Summer which I reviewed last week here.
Read a picture book account of Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles with children ages 5 and up, which I reviewed here.