Who She Is

Written by Diane Byington
Review by Meg Wiviott

Fifteen-year-old Faye Smith is the new girl—again—starting a new school in central Florida, where her parents have gotten jobs working in the orange groves. Faye strikes up a friendship with fellow runner and next-door neighbor, Francie, breaking her own rule of not getting close to anyone so that it’s easier to leave when her parents decide it’s time to move again. Francie wants to run in the Boston Marathon. Faye and Francie make a pact to run, despite the fact that in 1968 women are forbidden—because it might be injurious to their health—and Faye’s mother’s concern that running could be bad for Faye due to her epilepsy. Once Faye learns she may earn a scholarship to college and escape the life of a migrant farm worker, there is no stopping her. But Faye begins to have “spells,” moments when she remembers or dreams events that seem real. Faye’s mother blames the epilepsy. Faye is too determined to escape the life her parents have planned and slowly uncovers shocking truths her parents have kept secret.

Byington does a good job of setting the period. The topics of feminism and racism ring as true today as they did fifty years ago. The clever use of song titles from the period as chapter titles was fun, though I wonder if it will be lost on younger readers. There are several threads that will appeal to teen readers: feminism, civil rights, the Vietnam War, the desire to break away from one’s family, and to know who one really is. Faye is believable in her rebellion and quest to know the truth; however, at the climax the emotional resonance is lacking.