Saturday, January 19, 2013

Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon

"Grammie clicks her tongue at me. 'Anyone who can see will see you beautiful,' she says, which is what they always say.  She slides her fingers into my knots of curl.  It's not Grammie's fault. Grandmas are supposed to think you're beautiful. They have to, because it's their job, and also because if they didn't love you as hard as they could, you might just die of ugliness."

There are three kids, students, friends, teenagers, middle schoolers, main characters in this book.  Camo is the nasty nickname used by the class bully - her real name is Ella but Z or Zachariah calls her Eleanor.  Eleanor is friends with Z, even though he is a very strange boy who lives in a world of his own. Z used to be her neighbour but when his dad left, Z and his mum had to move out.  They now live in Walmart.  Yes I do mean Walmart the department store.  Z's mum works there at night. A new boy arrives one day in their class.  His name is Bailey James.  He is confident, good a sports and like Ella he is black - the only other black kid in the class.

Bailey lives near Ella.  She has a basketball hoop at the end of her drive way. Bailey loves to shoot hoops.  He teaches Ella how to play and the two become friends.  This sounds easy and trouble free but it is not because Ella has a huge loyalty to Z and troubles of her own to overcome.  Ella can cope with the world as long as she does not have to look in any mirrors. Z can cope with the world if Eleanor is his milady. Bailey can cope if people believe the stories he tells.

I loved Camo Girl because it challenges your intelligence.  You have to read this book slowly and carefully.  Kekla Magoon gently introduces fragments of each life story and allows the reader to piece together the tragic events that have affected the lives of each of these children. This is not, however, a sad book.  I actually laughed out loud at some of the observations by Grammie and the ending is brim full of hope for the future.

Here is the web site for the author - please take time to read this it will answer all your questions about this brilliant book.  Here is an interview with the author.

This elegantly crafted story features strong writing and solid characterizations of both main and secondary characters.

This book reminded me of an Australian book called Swashbuckler by James Maloney. You might also like to read Wonder by RJ Palacio, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli and Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

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