Camo Girl

by Kekla Magoon

Sixth grader Ella is the only African American kid in her class at a school in a... read more

Sixth grader Ella is the only African American kid in her class at a school in a community outside Las Vegas. Her face is patches of dark and light, hence the cruel nickname Camo-Face and her unwillingness to believe she could be beautiful. But her status as an outsider is due to the fact that she has stood steadfastly by her best friend, a boy she calls Z, whose behavior is odd and unsettling to other kids. Then Bailey arrives at her school. Also Black, he immediately fits in among the cool kids, yet he chooses to be Ella’s friend, too. Spending time with Bailey and later with other kids jeopardizes Ella’s friendship with Z. She’s conflicted—she doesn’t want to abandon Z but finds him challenging to be with. At the same time, she’s unwilling to acknowledge just how far removed from reality he has become; his mind seems trapped in the fantasy world the two of them once created for fun. An over-the-top climactic trip to Las Vegas doesn’t detract from the strengths of Kekla Magoon’s novel, which offers terrific characterizations and an original, nuanced exploration of racial identify and self-esteem. Magoon also sensitively explores mental illness and the pain of loss—in one way or another, all three children are mourning the absence of their fathers—in a novel that sees Ella beginning to embrace a new understanding of herself as someone who is, indeed, beautiful. (Ages 10–13)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2012

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