FiregirlTitle: Firegirl
Author: Tony Abbot
Narrator: Sean Kenin
ISBN: 9780739348734
Discs: 3 CDs/ 2 hours 52 minutes
Produced: Random House; Listening Library, c2007
Pages: 145 pages

“As horrible as I thought the girl would look, when I imagined what burned people looked like, it was nothing compared to what stepped into the room.
Jessica Feeney’s face, the first thing everyone looked at, was like a mask. I looked at her, then away, and then back at her. I couldn’t believe I was looking at the face of someone alive. …
Her lips were swollen. They nearly filled the space between her nose and chin. Her eyes peeked out from behind skin that looked melted. Her hair was mostly short. Her arms were covered, except that the forearms were bare and blotchy. Her fingers were bent as if she were trying to grab something.” (33)

Tom Bender’s seventh grade class has a new student named Jessica Fenney. While anyone would be curious about a new student, Jessica’s burned appearance is anything but ordinary, and speculation flies as to why she’s here and what happened. Tom, who is experiencing difficulties with his only friend Jeff, finds himself interacting with Jessica more than anyone else. Does that make them friends, or will the rumors ruin any chance at friendship?

This is definitely a thought provoking book. Tony Abbott presents this topic in a sensative manner, relating the conflicting feelings that Tom has regarding his new classmate. He is repulsed by Jessica’s appearance, but even more by his friends and classmates reactions to her. It brings up questions of right and wrong, and what would you do. I was impressed with the evolution of the characters, not just Tom but Jessica, Jeff, and Tom’s crush Courtney.

I was especially intrigued by Tom’s discussion with Jessica. I found myself wondering what people who read Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, where you find characters with small almost useless powers, would say about this conversation. The scene begins with Tom and Jessica talking about their favorite super heroes, and it quickly turns into a philosophical look at super powers. Tom tells Jessica:
“It’s dumb. … But sometimes I think it’s probably better to have a really dumb power. … Something really dorky and useless, like, I don’t know, having one indestructible finger or something. I think that would be really cool. .. Because otherwise it’s like asking for too much. If you want to be immortal or to fly or to control people’s brains or something, it’s like you think you deserve this huge ability. But if you’re regular in every other way, but just have one indestructible finger, who would ever say no to that? … But maybe the best part … is thinking how you could turn that really small dumb power into something completely awesome.” (89-90)
Can you just imagine the conversations you could have with a book group about just this passage alone!?

I’m so tempted to do this as my next book discussion, just to hear what other readers have to say. Definitely one of my top favorites for this year.