I'm a fan of Donna Jo Napoli and couldn't wait to read this story. The library edition I checked out had no blurb, and the mystery heightened my anticipation. Sadly, I was disappointed this time.
Her trademark lyrical writing style was conspicuously absent and made me wish she had written in third person instead of first. I'll take her style over a believably-voiced third-person narrator any day. While I believed the narrator's voice, I didn't quite believe his naivete. Children from racial groups who face prejudice on such a scale that they are in physical danger tend to be better acquainted with the meaning of the term "lynch," if for no other reason than their families make sure they know the facts of life for their own safety.
The book reads a little like Tom Sawyer with simmering racial tension, and when the tension at long last hits the boiling point, it's at odds with the innocence of the other 90% of the book. I could see that the author was trying to show how the hero's childhood ends in a moment. To me, though, the ending belonged on a different book. I simply didn't see enough of a build up to the eventual tragedy.
Recommend to: Age 12-14, historical fiction fans
Don't recommend to: the very sensitive - scenes near the end contain graphic violence