Finishing Becca

Written by Ann Rinaldi
Review by Mary K. Bird-Guilliams

One of the best features of this young adult novel is the fine descriptive contrast of poor and wealthy in its American Revolution setting. Becca’s family lost its wealth when her silversmith father died and in reduced circumstances has no buffer from the treacherous currents of loyalty in the young nation. Becca has a brother with Washington at Valley Forge, a clever mother who sews and makes her cloth dyes for those still affluent in the city, and a stepfather whose loyalties are hidden even from his family. When she takes a position as maid to Peggy Shippen, she finds that more money doesn’t always make things easier. The Shippen parents are hard pressed to remain neutral, good Quakers, and cope with their very different daughters. Peggy Shippen and Benedict Arnold as historical characters remain fascinating as infamous traitors. This book recalled to mind another by the prolific young adult writer Betty Cavanna. It was called A Touch of Magic and also featured an eyewitness to the Shippens and the romance between Peggy and Benedict. Touch of Magic was much more of a teen romance, but both books thoroughly delight with details of food, dress, parties and flirtation in wartime Philly, and I remember the early book fondly. Finishing Becca is much more about her development as a person, the “finishing” of the title only superficially referring to the preparation that young girls received for their coming out, but instead Becca is looking for missing pieces which will allow her to find meaning in her life, to become complete. Very enjoyable for both adults and teens. Ages 10-14