From School Library Journal
Gr 5-9–The Civil War is over and Richmond, Virginia, is occupied by Yankee soldiers. A secret society of men and boys has begun meeting with the stated mission of protecting Confederate widows. Fourteen-year-old Shadrach Weaver follows his older brother to a gathering and ends up being initiated into the Ku Klux Klan. Shad likes the feeling of brotherhood the group provides. On an errand for his family's tailor shop to the house of a local teacher, Shad, who suffers from dyslexia, makes arrangements to trade his sewing skills for reading lessons. He is surprised when the teacher arranges for him to work with African Americans; he knows he has to keep this secret, but it's not long before the existence of the school is discovered. Shad's brother, a loyal KKK member, becomes involved in a plot to bring the school, along with its students and teachers, to a violent end. Shad must decide between remaining loyal to his family and the brotherhood or warning the people for whom he has developed feelings of friendship and respect. Debut author Westrick does an excellent job of re-creating post-Civil War Richmond and giving voice to the resentments of its inhabitants. She explores the implications of brotherhood and demonstrates how right and wrong can be so intricately entwined that whatever choice one makes can result in disaster. A welcome addition to classroom discussions.–Cary Frostick, Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VAα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In 1867, two years after Lee’s surrender, a conflict is just beginning within 14-year-old Shad, a poor white boy living in burnt-out Richmond. On the one hand, he longs to learn how to read and grasps at his only chance, secretly taking lessons with freed slave children. On the other, he follows his older brother’s lead and joins the Klan. Though he mistrusts his reckless brother, still he longs to become a man. Clearly a clash is inevitable. Westrick’s first novel is ambitious in focusing on the losing side’s point of view after the Civil War. In order to remain sympathetic, if not heroic, Shad must choose a different path from his fellow Klansmen, whose opinions make painful reading at times. This first novel seems carefully constructed rather than organic. Most characters are portrayed as primarily good or evil, though readers will catch glimpses of the moral ambiguity and social complexity of Reconstruction. The appended author’s note focuses mainly on that period in the South and on the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Grades 6-8. --Carolyn Phelan