In the Keziah Christian Academy, one’s social status means everything. This social status can mean a seat on the bus, a place in the line for the bathroom, and even servants. Located in the middle of Swaziland, a patch of Europe in South Africa, status is often based upon wealth, something that most of the native Africans don’t have. This creates a strong divide between the rich white farmers and the native African villages. The protagonist, Adele Joubert, is proud of living life with a rich white father and a kind African mother. However, she does not have everything, a luxury that most other rich students take for granted. Her former friend, Deliah, abandons her for the more wealthy and higher class children. In turn, she is forced to live with a girl named Lottie, known for being aggressive and getting into fights. With no other option, Adele spends the school year with someone almost completely opposite to the polite and rich white girls that Adele aspires to be with. Isolated on the social spectrum, Adele finds herself cut off from her friends and her status.
As the story continued, I could feel the characters develop further. Problems Adele faced and her entitled attitude slowly fade away as she grows as a character and person. The decisions she makes in the future fervently contrast her past self. It genuinely felt like Adele grew a lot by the end of the book. Adele learned subtly and slowly through actions and experiences, with just enough realism for the relationships and experiences to work. It feels real and the transition between the new and old Adele is smooth. I noticed it immediately as something the book did right among other novels. Other than that factor, the story was relatively wholesome. The characters feel consistent and the conflict between them is realistic.
The story’s setting as a large factor felt compelling. Swaziland is a place where both African and English people are mixed together. As known from history, this often never works out, which is exactly what happens. The richer white folk often harass the poorer natives, something that plays a part in the relationships of many students. This complex form of conflict allows the setting to have a large role in the story, instead of a theme that becomes irrelevant.
Reviewed by Jaewon, Twin Hickory Library