Happy Monday, guys!
Today, we're reviewing Last in a Long Line of Rebels by debut author Lisa Lewis Tyre!
It's a fantastic story about a young girl who wishes for an exciting summer, and ends up uncovering long-held secrets about her family and her town, changing her world forever.
MMGM is a feature hosted by the fabulous Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Published September 29th 2015 by Nancy Paulsen Books
Format read: ARC via publisher
Lou's journey to save her home, discover long-hidden truths about her family and fight against deep-seated prejudices in her small town, will inspire and intrigue readers, young and old alike.
When Lou and her best friend, Benzer, pray for an exciting summer, they get more than they bargained for—as “exciting” can be defined in many ways.
Before Lou knows it, the county is planning to take her house, and, in order to save it, she’s masterminding a late-night book heist to solve a century-old mystery about a cache of stolen Civil War gold. Who stole the gold? Why, her own notorious great-great-grandfather, of course. As Lou pieces together her family history, she discovers her ancestor may have also been a murderer and was certainly a slave owner. “Why do people even like history?” she wonders.
Fortunately Lou’s grandmother, Bertie, the town historian and gossip, has plenty of answers for that and shows Lou that the only shame is not looking at our shameful past. When Lou uncovers the Civil War era diary written by her namesake matriarch, she begins to learn what it was like to live in a state divided over the war—and finds herself immersed in her colorful family’s struggles and the story of their changing stance on the war.
Debut author Lisa Lewis Tyre introduces us to twelve-year-old Lou Mayhew, a young girl who hasn't always fit in within her small town. Both her father's profession of collecting and selling junk, and the fact that her family can't compete financially with the rest of the town, means that Lou isn't accepted by the popular crowd.
As summer rolls around, Lou is determined to have something to talk about when she returns to school. She prays for some excitement, but gets much more than she bargained for, when she soon learns that her family may be on the verge of losing their house and her family has a secret history dating back to the Civil War...
What's fantastic about Last in a Long Line of Rebels, is that it's a book that manges to effortlessly cover a number of heady subjects, ranging from losing a home to institutionalized racism and socio-economic differences, in a way that is both beautifully written and easy for younger readers to comprehend.
Even as Lou struggles with the idea that her family's home may be beyond saving, and the fact that her family history is not what she thought it once was, Tyre is careful to have Lou be proactive rather than reactive to these unfolding obstacles. Her approach to problem solving - e.g. relying on her friends; researching the options for the house - are all relatable skills, which readers of any age, particularly younger ones, will likely appreciate.
As the story progresses, and Lou realizes that her town still has lingering remenants of discrimination and racism, Tyre handles the recurring topic of racism throughout the novel, in a straightforward and honest approach. While characters are politely frank in the abhorrence of the discrimination experienced by those like Isaac, Tyre also does a nice job of challenging readers to understand just why such racism continues to exist, and why that existence can and should be changed.
Lou's journey is interspersed with excerpts from the diary of Lou's ancestor, which emphasizes the book's historical fiction roots, and also serves as a nice counterpoint to the book's underlying idea that the town has come very far from the time of the Civil War, but there is still more work to be done.
All in all, Lou's journey is a rich and thoughtful one, leaving readers with plenty of ideas and questions about both the leagcy of the nation, and the legacy that they can continue to build themselves.
Lisa Lewis Tyre has written a beautiful tale about a young girl who proactively works to save her family home and her family legacy, while uncovering truths about their legacy and the town's history, that helps redefine both her family's role in the town and the town itself, forever.
Outside of Lou's central journey, Tyre also smartly reinforces the idea that while prejudice and discrimination will always exist, it's important to face those who choose to act that way, with your head held high. Lou, Benzer, Patty and Isaac's experience throughout the book are a beautiful reminder that there are always those who will turn injustice on its head, and pave a better way for the future.
Highly recommend for all readers. I think we're going to be hearing big things about Tyre's debut in the upcoming months, and I can't wait!
About the author:
Lisa Tyre grew up in the tiniest of towns in Tennessee, where the only form of entertainment was watching her crazy family, and even crazier neighbors. As a child, she heard the story of siblings that found gold in their field, enough to pay off the family farm. Legend claimed it was Civil War gold. Whatever the truth, Lisa and her friends spent many hours searching their own backyards for treasure. Lisa now lives in Atlanta and works in Advertising/Social Media consulting.