Stella Stands Alone
This is an alternate history only in the sense that it posits a plantation run on utopian principles. Once the reader accepts this, the rest—the violence, the utter lawlessness of the neighboring planters—is simply a given. Stella’s mother is dead, and her father has been murdered by a covetous neighbor as the story begins. Stella can’t find the deed to Oak Grove, and the local bank is foreclosing, claiming that a mortgage has not been paid. Courts, law enforcement, all turn a blind eye toward the plight of this daughter of a non-conformist. Stella begins the fight for her home alone, but she soon receives some unexpected assistance from her aged Cousin Mertle and a Yankee newcomer who thinks he can run a plantation.
This is an exciting story, with plenty of suspense and danger until the mystery of the missing deed is finally solved. It’s also an ugly picture of life after the Civil War in the Deep South, as the evils of inequality continue to be enforced by vigilantes. The dialect and Stella’s unlikely upbringing were a problem for me at first, but the story is compelling, and Stella is a convincing, gutsy character. Ages 10-14.