Keep Smiling Through by Ann Rinaldi
Recommended For: Ages Eight to Adult
"I was ten the year I learned that you can be good and do the right thing and sometimes it all goes bad for you.
It isn't a useless thing to know. I just wish I hadn't learned it so soon; that I could go on forever believing what our radio heroes were teaching us that spring of 1944; that all you have to do is stand up for truth and have an unswerving sense of justice and you will be rewarded in the end."
Growing up in middle-class America in the 1940s is a confusing and sometimes painful experience for young Kay Hennings. Her stepmother, Amazing Grace, is a selfish woman who takes her unhappiness out on everyone around her. And for a little girl so concerned with pleasing others and doing the honorable thing, life with Amazing Grace is nearly unbearable.
Kay is determined to do her part for her country, and she strives to emulate the ideals put forth by her radio heroes, whose adventures she and her brothers eagerly listen to each day. But when the opportunity arises for Kay to do what is right for her country, she discovers that doing right is not always an easy thing.
Yes, that was a long description. It's what was on the back of the book and I just typed in. I read this book on Independence Day because it was my turn to do the book review and I hadn't read anything new in the past weeks. This book only took me two hours to read at the most, I don't know for certain because I wasn't looking at the clock. I didn't put it down once.
There is something about Ann Rinaldi's books that make them really good and hard to put down (at least the two I've read so far, but I'm pretty sure the others, at least most of them, are just as good). The writing was great. Superb deep POV, good story structure, vivid descriptions, and engaging dialogue, this book was everything it should have been and more. It didn't have any typos that I noticed either, and was tastefully formatted (such as I know about these things, which isn't much, but the inside was pleasing to the eye). Well-written all round.
The book is set in New Jersey in 1944. Of all the World War II books I've read about Americans, this one seemed like it had the most accurate portrayal. Perhaps that was because the author grew up during World War II. I would assume since the author actually lived through World War II it's historically accurate; it certainly seemed so. The main girl goes to a Catholic school and there is quite a bit of emphasis on the radio programs. Kay Hennings' world seemed very real.
I can't say much about the plot for fear of giving anything away. What I can say is that it is good. Really good. It's exciting, intriguing...and if I say anything more I'll be sure to blab something.
They just all felt so real. They were so rounded. Kay had a mean stepmother, Amazing Grace, yet Amazing Grace was more than just mean. Unlike many evil stepmothers in stories, and I could name a few, Amazing Grace was a real person. So was Kay's dad, who mostly just wanted peace. And money. Martin, one of Kay's brothers, was wonderfully done. Tom, her other brother, was barely in it, but for the time he was, he was a real person, too. And her sisters, Mary and Elizabeth. so very different, yet the same as well. They weren't cardboard characters or one-sided, but multi-dimensional. And Kay herself. I'm really not sure what to say about her. But I liked her. A lot.
One of the things I really liked about this book was how all of the loose ends were tied up; not one left hanging. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who can read.