Delphine, Vonetta and Fern have been favorites of mine since One Crazy Summer. These girls are funny, sassy, and dramatic. They respect their elders and still question them constantly. They are also black and proud, power to the people.
What Rita Williams-Garcia has done so well in all three of these books – One Crazy Summer, P.S. Be Eleven, and Gone Crazy in Alabama – is to create characters and families who jump out of the page at you. They aren’t just sitting there, thinking and waiting for something to happen; these characters take action, even if those actions will get them in a whole lot of trouble with someone. Williams-Garcia is so skillful at building their world that nothing they do – even getting sucked up in a tornado — seems out of character or impossible. Families have secrets, and sometimes people hang on to bitterness for too long. They do pull together to protect each other from outsiders, though, when bad things come around.
Gone Crazy in Alabama is Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern’s story, but Williams-Garcia has masterfully added details which go a long way to showing what was going on in the world then, too. Local law enforcement might be related to you distantly, but they’re also in the KKK. An injured child might end up at a hospital without getting any attention because she’s the wrong color. The story flies along with the characters, but the details provide opportunities for thinking and talking about where we were fifty years ago and where we are now.