The Secrets of Tree Taylor, by Dandi Daley Mackall

If you, like me, feel a pang of sadness whenever you remember that Wendelin Van Draanen's Sammy Keyes series has really and truly ended, I have good news: Dandi Daley Mackall's coming-of-age novel The Secrets of Tree Taylor hits a lot of the same notes, and hits several of them even better.

Tree Taylor is the 13-year-old daughter of a small-town doctor in rural Missouri. It's the summer of 1963, and Tree has two goals: to experience her first kiss, and write a story that will convince the editor of the high school paper to hire her as a freshman reporter. Tree has no idea how she will accomplish the kiss, but when she sees her father helping to cover up what appears to be an attempted murder, she realizes the reporter job is within her grasp—all she has to do is expose someone else's secret.

Like the Sammy Keyes books, The Secrets of Tree Taylor features a feisty heroine, several die-hard female friendships, and an intense belief in the importance of being both honest and kind. Unlike the Sammy Keyes books, Mackall's novel is set fifty years ago, which solves my biggest complaint about Van Draanen's series: the lack of profanity. (I'm sure teenagers did plenty of swearing in 1963, but it's removed enough for slightly different speech patterns to be plausible.) This is a stroke of genius—it allows the story to explore some genuinely dark stuff, but it does so in a way that doesn't ruffle parental feathers or irritate readers with artificially G-rated dialogue.
Posted by: Julianka


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