Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2010
Source: My Own Bookshelf
Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.
Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”
Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.
I was surprised by this book. I love historical fiction, especially for children, so I had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, it fell flat for me. It had a small town but I felt like the small-town flavor was missing. You know, like how on Gilmore Girls Kirk and Gypsy could steal the show? The characters just weren’t flavorful. Also, I didn’t feel connected to the main character or her motivations. The first 3/4 of the book was slow going, but I was excited to see how the story ended. It was enjoyable, just not a 5-star book.
I wonder how many stars a child would give it because it didn’t really keep my attention. I’m not sure many kids would finish it. Another thing that I’m curious about is the fact that this won a Newbery. How? There were probably more enticing stories out there. This book was well-structured and well-written... I understand that. It just wasn’t compelling. I might have to do some research.