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Devil on My Heels [Mass Market Paperback]

Joyce McDonald
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)


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Book Description

November 8, 2005 12 and up 7 and up740L (What's this?)
It’s 1959 in Benevolence, Florida, and life is as sweet as a Valencia orange for 15-year-old Dove Alderman. Whether she’s sipping cherry Cokes with her girlfriends and listening to the Everly Brothers, eating key lime pie made by her housekeeper, Delia, or cruising around town with the coolest boy in school in his silver-blue T-bird convertible, Dove’s days are as smooth and warm as the soft sand in her father’s orange groves.

But there’s trouble brewing among the local migrant workers. Mysterious fires have broken out, and rumors are spreading that disgruntled pickers are to blame. Suddenly, black and white become a muddy shade of gray, and whispers of the KKK drift through the Southern air like sighs. The Klan could never exist in a place like Benevolence, Dove tells herself. Or could it?


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Review: Benevolence, Florida, in the late 1950's doesn't seem like it could be the scene of ugly racism and violence. Fifteen-year-old Dove Alderman reads poetry, strolls through her daddy's orange groves, and rides around with Chase Tully in his silver-blue T-bird convertible. So when fires start breaking out in the groves, and nasty spats happen on the streets of Benevolence, the truth is slow to dawn on Dove. Her awakening is agonizing, but ultimately freeing.

In this complex and moving novel by Joyce McDonald (Swallowing Stones, Shades of Simon Gray), a privileged teen discovers that the line between right and wrong is often blurry, but important to establish. McDonald delves into the chilling world of the Ku Klux Klan, depicting the fear at the core of the hatred. Dove's education will parallel that of young readers who may not yet comprehend the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which one group can fear and oppress another--even half a century after this story takes place. (Ages 12 and older) --Emilie Coulter --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-9–This suspenseful story is set in the Florida orange groves of the 1950s. Dove, 15, is increasingly aware of the tensions between the white grove owners and the black migrant workers who pick the fruit. She has a budding romance with Chase Tully, and is concerned about Gator, a black friend who works in her father's grove and is increasingly angry about the conditions. When fires break out in the area, suspicion falls on the orange pickers. Dove begins to question many things, which leads her to discover a Klan meeting in progress. Not only does she see Chase Tully there, she also sees her father. This eventually leads to an exciting, violent but overly melodramatic confrontation between the young people and the Klansmen. Except for Delia, the Alderman family's black housekeeper, the adults in this story do not have a lot to offer. Dove's father weakly goes along with the crowd because he has known these people all his life. The old-boy network that runs the town is full of stereotypical racists. But make no mistake, this well-written story conveys the simmering racial hatred and bigotry of the times. Gator is a strong, admirable character who is tempting fate by having a white girlfriend and by actively advocating for the workers. Chase and Dove are earnest young people trying to make the best of a bad situation. Period details about movies, cars, hairdos, and the like add authenticity. This is certainly a page-turner and it will give readers insight into a difficult and shameful part of American history.–Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 740L (What's this?)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf (November 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440238293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440238294
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,217,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joyce McDonald is the author of several critically acclaimed middle grade and young adult novels, most notably Swallowing Stones, an American Library Association Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults and Booklist's 100 Best of the Best 1966 - 2003, and Shades of Simon Gray, an ALA Best Book and Edgar Allen Poe Award Nominee. She is also the author of The Stuff of Our Forebears: Willa Cather's Southern Heritage (University of Alabama Press). Her most recent novel is Devil on My Heels. She teaches in Spalding University's Brief-residency MFA in Writing Program.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
(4)
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story October 25, 2004
A Kid's Review
Format:Library Binding
This book has everything -- mystery, suspense, romance -- and a great story too. I felt like I was in a time machine, back to Florida in the 1950s. I learned about racial attitudes of the time, but the author didn't preach. She got her ideas across with a great story. They should make it into a movie!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review for Devil on My Heels December 19, 2006
A Kid's Review
Format:Hardcover
Devil on My Heels is a book that displays both racism and loyalty. It takes place in Benevolence, Florida in 1959. Fifteen-year-old Dove spends her time in the Benevolence Baptist Cemetery reading poems to dead boys, since they "listen and don't walk away" like the other boys. As a child she played in her father's orange groves with Chase Tully, and Gator, and African American orphan. Suddenly, there are fires breaking out in the groves, both the Mexican and African American are blamed. Dove then discovers that both her father and Chase Tully are part of the Ku Klux Klan, which leads to Delia, their African American housekeeper, no longer work for them. The racial hatred leads Travis Waite to beat Gator up, and beat his face with a belt buckle. Gator starts going out with a white woman, and stirs up trouble. Dove's relationship with her dad will never be the same after she found out about the Ku Klux Klan, and especially after she finds out her father had been hiding a shoe box full of pictures of Dove's mother. Soon everything returns to normal, but Travis is left without a job, and Delia will receive money. This books demonstrates how people can change with the influence of other people, but can overcome this influence from the help of good people.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Evil can lurk just beneath the surface of anyone's life September 10, 2008
Format:Mass Market Paperback
At 15, Dove Alderman enjoys a comfortable life. Sure, her mother died when she was only four, but her father Lucas provides a good home, and they have Delia, a black housekeeper who is just about a substitute parent.

But it's 1959 and the South, meaning racial relations are volatile. Now that they're older, Dove is no longer allowed to associate with Gator, a black childhood friend who works in the Alderman orange groves. Gator is attracting attention from many white residents in town, because he's speaking up about the terrible conditions for many workers. Also...could he have a white girlfriend? If anyone found out, Dove knows, he could be killed.

A rash of mysterious fires around town has made everyone nervous. Yet Dove continues to believe they are accidents and lightning strikes; until she begins to understand there might be something more sinister at work.

McDonald does a beautiful job, skillfully weaving serious topics of racial history with Dove's first romance and other typical young adult issues. Readers will feel compelled to find out what happens to the residents of this tiny Florida town.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive Look at Racial Issues February 26, 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Devil on My Heels is an incredible book. Joyce McDonald deals with race and class issues in a sensitive but realistic manner. Dove Alderman is the privileged daughter of a successful orange grove owner who has few worries. When tensions rise between the grove workers and the locals Dove works to discover the truth.
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