By: Caroline B. Cooney
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: October 2011
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: October 2011
This quite ‘cool’ story that mixes present-day with a time in history that is still filled with mystery and questions, is a real treat.
Lutie Painter is our main character. Lutie is one of those girls who, from the outside, has it all. She is lovely, fun, has tons of friends, can sing like an angel from ‘on high,’ and has relatives who truly love and care for her - especially her MeeMaw - her grandmother who has passed away. The one thing Lutie doesn’t have is a mother. Yes, the woman is present and lives on the other side of town in the worst neighborhood in the world, but she is so drugged out of her mind that being a parent was never going to be something she could do.
Lutie’s MeeMaw and Aunts have told Lutie to stay away from her mother because she’s basically done with the world and is nothing but trouble. But one morning, Lutie has to follow the ‘call’ she receives from her Mom saying the words, “You have to know.” Getting on a bus leading her into the most horrific world she’s ever seen, to meet a mother who decides - once again - that drugs are more important than the information she called Lutie about.
Soon, Lutie is back in school in her music class where an odd man and her own professor begin talking to her about The Laundry List. This list is basically a book of songs that were written down by her ancestors. These slaves, at the time, had penned and sung some truly amazing lyrics that could quite possibly change the world, and only Lutie, supposedly, has them. MeeMaw left them to her, but Lutie knows that those songs are her ancestral history - and NOT something that can be bought and sold by others. Soon, even Miss Veola - the preacher - wants them, and Lutie is stuck in a world that suddenly will do anything to get what it wants.
There are other friends and not-so-friendly types that end up being a part of Lutie’s world. Kelvin, a baritone in music class, is a kind young man who has had a crush on Lutie forever. Dora Bell is a Yankee in the South. She has just come into the neighborhood and can play the piano like a master - knowing all the notes the second she looks at them. She can’t, however, seem to make friends. She is an outsider, and until Lutie gives her the nod, Dora has to be content playing her piano and ‘crushing’ on Kelvin.
There is also Train Greene. Train used to be a nice boy by the name of Cliff, but when his older brother became a serious troublemaker and ended up in jail, Cliff soon turned into Train, as if he were emulating the one person he should’ve been forgetting about.
These friendships are illuminating, and the author does a good job of blending the present and the past; discussing all the difficulties in both time periods. The Laundry List is a very interesting premise, and Lutie is a character that one and all will route for from beginning to end.
Quill Says: A unique and innovative YA. Leaving ‘vampires’ behind, this author has created a truly interesting story.