(Image from Barnes & Noble)
After a traumatic event that leaves her an orphan, 11-year-old Rachel Morse moves from Chicago to Portland, Oregon, to live with her paternal grandmother. Having been raised by her white-skinned Danish mother, not her African-American father, the bi-racial tween experiences culture shock living in the "black" part of her new city. With her light brown skin and blue eyes, no one's quite sure what to make of Rachel. Least of all herself. As she struggles to deal with not just her grief, but also finding her identity—racially, socially, emotionally, economically—she will make some startling discoveries about herself, her family, and what really happened on that rooftop in Chicago.
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, a debut novel by Heidi W. Durrow, is loosely based on a real news story and strongly based on the author's experience as a person of mixed race. Because of the latter, Rachel's voice exudes authenticity, making her an intriguing narrator. Her story is compelling not just because of the mystery that runs through the novel, but also because it's a tender tale about growing up and all the confusion, chaos, and consternation that comes along with that rite of passage. Race and identity are big themes in the PEN/Bellwether Prize-winning book (2008); the points it makes on the subjects are both interesting and very discussion-worthy. Although The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is sad and depressing, overall I found it engrossing. Not amazing, but absorbing enough to keep my attention, meaningful enough to make me think.
(Readalikes: Reviews compare it to The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, which I haven't read.)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and sexual content
To the FTC, with love: Another library