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M+O 4EVR Hardcover – April 29, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up-Marianne and Opal, two African-American girls, have grown up like sisters and sheltered one another from the racism of their small Pennsylvania town. Now in high school, Marianne has revealed a wild side. She skips school, uses drugs, and fools around with boys. Opal makes good grades and enjoys reading. Opal loves Marianne in a way that Marianne does not return. Suddenly, Marianne is dead. It's unclear whether it was an accident or suicide, but it doesn't matter. Opal is devastated and draws into a shell of remembrance of the good and bad times the two had shared. She copes by recalling a legend her family told to both girls about a slave who escaped from a Maryland plantation and fell in love during her journey north. After her lover gave his life to protect her, Hannah magically flew over a ravine to escape slave catchers—the same ravine in which Marianne died. In this coming-of-age story, Opal finds that time, family, and ultimately love actually can begin to heal wounds. Hegamin's first novel is richly imaginative as it deals with difficult subjects. Opal's and Hannah's parallel stories of love and loss blend seamlessly in this small book that packs a big wallop.—Janet Hilbun, Texas Woman's University, Denton
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Opal’s mother thought it was funny to name her dark-skinned daughter after a bright white gemstone, but Opal, who hates the joke, goes by the nickname O. Her biracial best friend, M (Marianne), has been the focus of O’s life until daring and troubled M commits suicide in a deep ravine. The spot is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of a runaway slave, Hannah, about whom O’s mother tells stories that are folded into the novel. Linking a contemporary story to the life of a runaway slave is an intriguing idea, but the shifting narrative is not entirely successful and may lose some readers along the way. Still, O’s characterization is strong, and her growing awareness that she felt a romantic love for M is honestly and tenderly realized. Girls will soak up the sad story with its focus on friendship and moving on. It’s too bad the cover art doesn’t more clearly show the girls’ ethnicity; more books with girls of color prominently displayed are needed. Grades 7-10. --Cindy Dobrez
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Top customer reviews
The novel opens with two African American teens, Marianne and Opal (M is biracial, O is not) and the two are taking a drive around town after Marianne has been crowned the town's first black homecoming queen. Marianne has dreams of the glamorous life, of running far away, of making it in Hollywood. Opal has dreams too that come crashing down...
Hegamin's ability to paint these characters is so strong that they pulsate off the page and the reader is mesmerized and enchanted. It almost feels wrong to know these characters as intimately as we do, which makes the blow that appears later in the novel so devastating.
One girl wants so badly to be loved by everyone. The other wants so badly to love just one.
Both teens have been raised practically together by O's family since childhood. The grandmother is real. The father is loving. The mother appears as ethereal, in a lovely scene at sea, as the stories she once told M and O before they went to bed. This sets up the story-within-a-story of Hannah, a slave who escaped her owners and found herself in the arms of real love.
Ultimately, Hegamin's message is clear: "It doesn't matter who you love, just so you love them right." That love may last a lifetime or a mere mass of stolen moments. One thing is sure--love endures. We make sacrifices for that love. We see this in M+O's story and in Hannah's story as well.
This is a beautifully written novel for teen and adult readers to enjoy and discuss. It also raises issues of racism, sexism, and class without feeling forced. Highly unforgettable and recommended!
That's what Opal anticipated when she made the decision to take her best friend, Marianne, away from their small-town life in M+O 4 EVR. The novel from Tonya Marie Hegamin relates an emotional excursion of what happens when wishes are deferred by life's disappointments.
Best friends, Marianne and Opal's bond was an unspoken one, full of longing and hurt and not-so-unrequited love. The girls lived in their Pennsylvania town as outcasts, the only few Black faces in the mountainous county. They only had each other, as little girls who held hands on their first day of school, a shield from the world that couldn't possibly understand them.
While Marianne has some idea of Opal's feelings for her, she can't see past her own pain to reciprocate. Marianne felt lost in her own skin and never wanted to accept her "loser" status assigned based on her light complexion. She strived to be popular, one of the cool kids. And eventually she did attain the crown - becoming the first black homecoming queen - at the expense of leaving her best friend behind. The victory was short-lived when only hours later, a tragedy strikes Marianne, and all the dreams Opal had for them dissipate.
All Opal wanted was have Marianne to herself, in the way she did when they danced through the milkweeds, carved their names into their favorite tree, or pressed lips together under the blackberry bushes. Now all she's left with is painful memories and theories on how things got to this point. For Opal, her ache came from knowing what they could have been. But with her future in her hands, she soon discovered things happen for a reason.
The sentiments M+O 4 EVR are sweet, raw and heartfelt. Who can't relate to the story of innocent love and the slings and arrows of growing up? Hegamin writes about loss and love, while also tying in the spirit of a runaway slave to anchor the tale to how much we sacrifice for the love of one person.
SISTAHS ON THE SHELF PICK OF THE MONTH (AUGUST 2010)
Opal was happy with the way things were, and would've been perfectly content had her world consisted of only her and Marianne. But one night, the entire world changed. The two girls ventured out towards the ravine where they had their own world. Marianne brought drugs with her and proceeded to get high. Opal, wanting nothing to do with the drugs, and having obligations back home with her grandma, left Marianne at the ravine.
The next morning, Opal is awakened by her grandma. Marianne was dead. Found at the bottom of the ravine. Hearing the news, Opal is in shock. And it brings back the ghost stories of Hannah that the girls were told growing up.
M+O 4EVR tells the story of Opal getting past her grief. Opal remembers bits and pieces of her life with Marianne. As she recalls their history, a second story of the ghost, Hannah, is revealed. Hannah was a young slave girl that attempts to escape the horrible life that awaits her as she grows out of her young years.
M+O 4EVR is not an easy story to read. The grief and sadness is evident throughout the entire story. But even with the bleak outlook Opal has, there is a hint of hope throughout. Reading about Hannah's dream of a better life as well as Opal's struggles to decide upon a future leaves the reader feeling stronger by the end.
Reviewed by: Jaglvr