Marlee is so quiet, she only talks to a few people in her family, and one friend. Then a new girl comes to her class, and asks Marlee to be her partner on a history project. Liz is self confident and smart, and soon she begins to work with Marlee to help her overcome her shyness. Then one day Liz doesn't come to class, and Marlee discovers that Liz is really an African American, posing as a white girl so she could go to a better school. Although Central High School had technically been integrated with the "Little Rock 9" had attended the year before, the grade schools were not integrated, and it was illegal, even dangerous, for Liz to attend school there. As Liz and Marlee try to secretly continue their friendship, racial tensions rise, as one high school after another shut down to prevent integration. Marlee has to decide if she is brave enough to speak up and make a change in her own community.
There are a lot of novels out there that present the integration struggles in the 50's. This one is interesting because it deals with the aftermath of the first attempts to integrate, and shows that things did not change overnight. I was interested to see what kind of ending Levine would have for the story, and was gratified to find that she chose the realistic conclusion, rather than the idealistic one. The story is carefully researched and I think Levine does a good job of showing the emotions, attitudes and motivations behind the historical events. (298 p)