WHEN THE GROUND IS HARD
Written by Malla Nunn
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, June 4, 2019
My star rating – 4 stars
Adele Joubert loves being one of the popular girls at Keziah Christian Academy. She knows the upcoming semester at school is going to be great with her best friend Delia at her side. Then Delia dumps her for a new girl with more money, and Adele is forced to share a room with Lottie, the school pariah, who doesn’t pray and defies teachers’ orders.
But as they share a copy of Jane Eyre, Lottie’s gruff exterior and honesty grow on Adele, and Lottie learns to be a little sweeter. Together, they take on bullies and protect each other from the vindictive and prejudiced teachers. Then a boy goes missing on campus and Adele and Lottie must rely on each other to solve the mystery and maybe learn the true meaning of friendship. Find it on Goodreads
I honestly didn’t know what to expect going into this book. All I knew was that two girls came together through a copy of a book. Does a book lover need to know much else? What ended up happening was I stumbled into a story of a young girl realizing that she has dreams and worth, and a friendship that changed their lives.
Adele is popular in school. She is mixed race with a white father, so that automatically gives her a higher status within the school. Her father pays full fees at the Academy, her uniform is new, her shoes shine, and her house back home has carpets. But when she’s suddenly cast aside for a more wealthy student that just arrived, she needs to find out where she fits within school society all over again. Meet Lottie. She comes from nothing, is wild and carefree, does as she pleases, and doesn’t care to be in the social ladder of school. They’re forced to share a room at the beginning of the term and Adele is none too happy about it. She was popular and important….. and now she’s cast aside to live with a girl who isn’t mixed race and comes from nothing. Soon Adele realizes that none of that matters….. and what a beautiful thing that was!!!
Adele has an interesting living situation. Her mother isn’t married to her father. Her father is married to another woman who lives in another city with his other children. He comes to stay with them when he can but he makes sure that they’re well taken care of. In school, her mixed race and white father makes her “more important”. But, to the people of Swaziland, this is something they look down on them for. They’re just another family who doesn’t think that being black is a thing to be proud of. This dynamic was SO interesting and complicated. Her mother wanted only the best for her children; basically more than she had growing up herself. She talked frequently about European rule, paved roads, carpets in the house, high heeled shoes, and so much more. If you lived in a hut with dirt floors, well, you were a step below. So Adele grew up thinking this way. Until Lottie changed everything.
When Lottie came into the picture, Adele began to question why those students who were gifted school fees got less food at dinner, and how that was fair. She began to see the beauty in the people of Swaziland and how their black skin and tradition were a thing to be proud of and not look down on. And how dirt floors in their homes doesn’t determine their intelligence and worth. Most of all, Lottie inspired questions of a woman’s worth. Adele had seen her mother’s world revolve around her father – their lives and gratitude revolved around him, no matter how often he was home or with his other family. Lottie inspired Adele to begin thinking if she deserved things for herself because she wanted them, and if she needed to live for a man.
The writing was absolutely stunning. The descriptions of Adele’s surroundings was so detailed and entrancing. I had a very clear vision in my mind of how everything looked – and I even felt as though I could feel the ground beneath me and smell the air blowing through my hair. But it was how she explained the complicated nature of Swaziland and its people that was just SO well done! There were so many different layers to the people, how they lived, what they felt, and what was in their hearts. I feel like, as an outsider, I really understood where they were all coming from. I could understand every one of their emotions and how their lives circulated, even though it hurt to understand it sometimes. On one hand I can see how people like Adele’s mother would want more for themselves and their families. But, on the other hand, it hurt to see such a beautiful way of life could be cast aside and looked down on. This book was simultaneously so many things – Heartwarming and heartbreaking. Beautiful, yet ugly. One thing for sure, this book was WONDERFUL!
If you love books about friendships, culture, social status, and love of reading, you need to read this! It was stunning, well written, heart wrenching, impactful, and eye opening. I HIGHLY recommend!
Thank you so much to Penguin Random House Canada and G.P Putnam for the chance to read this in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and are uninfluenced.
Until next time, happy reading!