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Fresh Girl

by Ja´ra Placide

Published by Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2002
216 pages
ISBN: 0-385-32753-6

Age 13 and older

First-time novelist Ja´ra Placide draws on her Haitian heritage in this stirring story about a14-year-old Haitian American girl. Born in the United States to Haitian parents, Mardi was four when her mother and father sent her and her older sister back to Haiti to live with their grandmother. Now she is back, having fled Haiti with her relatives in the midst of political turmoil and rising danger. It's a difficult adjustment for Mardi. A good student, she is small for her age and uncomfortable with the social pressures of junior high school. She tries to be invisible and to ignore the taunts of classmates who call her names like FOB for "fresh off the boat." At home, Mardi's relationship with her mother is often tense. There, she is "fresh" for not always giving her parents respect. In her journal for English class, a notebook Mardi has christened "Malice," Mardi records thoughts and feelings about her new life, and about her final days in Haiti. In a frantic rush to flee the soldiers and get safely out of the country, Mardi was briefly separated from her family. She's told no one that she was assaulted by soldiers and witnessed a brutal murder. But when her beloved Uncle Perrin, whom she hasn't seen since before leaving Haiti, rejoins her family, Mardi is overwhelmed by memories she can no longer keep inside. When she reveals the truth of what happened, her horrified family responds with tenderness and love, supporting her as she takes her first real steps toward healing. The terrifying reality of Mardi's past is balanced with the details of her daily life at home and school, which offer their own challenges but also solace and hope. Ja´ra Placide's sensitive portrayal of a traumatized child beautifully captures her character's fragility and resilience. Honor Book, CCBC Coretta Scott King Author Award Discussion. CCBC Categories: Fiction for Young Adults.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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