Review by Jeana Gockley

4th-8th Grade

This debut book in Deborah Wiles’ “Sixties Trilogy” takes place in Maryland, just outside Andrews Air Force Base during the fall of 1962.

The novel’s main character, 11-year-old Franny Chapman — who the author based on herself — is dealing with a failing friendship, her Uncle Otts’ embarrassing war flashbacks, her older sister’s disappearance, her saintly little brother’s inability to be anything less than perfect, and her feelings for a cute boy who recently moved in across the street.

While Franny’s everyday issues seem like more than enough for the average adolescent to handle, author Wiles adds a historical twist to this chapter book and incorporates the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis into the background of the story. So not only does Franny, who loves a good Nancy Drew mystery book, have to solve her personal problems, she has to practice “duck and cover” drills at her school and, more importantly, keep her fear of being bombed at bay.

Deborah Wiles documentary novel is a powerful book about a time period that the majority of today’s youth will know little to nothing about. However, her inclusion of black and white photographs, news advertisements, biographies, music lyrics and other footage from 1962 throughout the book will provide a visual hook for readers.

This almost 400-page book has a lot going on, but Wiles does an exceptional job combining Franny’s story and historical world events. Readers may not know about the Cuban Missile Crisis, but they will relate based on their knowledge of fear and the everyday struggle to survive adolescence.

Wiles has written a standout that should not be missed.