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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Being a new girl in high school is hard enough, but being the new girl that arrives mid-term is even more difficult. Especially when this new girl has had many experiences as a new girl in high schools across the country. Her parents move a lot, being itinerant farm workers. And, with a drunken, drug doped father, who often gets in trouble flirting with other men’s wives, the moves are often a necessity of survival – his survival. Faye’s a strong girl, though, and when she hears about the track team looking for new runners, she immediately signs up. It doesn’t matter that it’s the 1960s and women just didn’t run in the 1960s. It doesn’t matter that her mother has convinced her that she has epilepsy and that the running might bring on another seizure. Faye loves to run. And she makes her first best friend in a long time, Francie, on the track. Francie loves to run, too, and she has big plans. Francie wants to run the Boston Marathon, even though women in the 1960s are still not allowed to register for this event. She convinces Faye to join her in the dream. But the dream becomes an obsession for Faye and, as she runs, her past starts to catch up to her and her life unravels in ways she never dreamed possible.
It's not very often a book grabs me in such a way that I can’t put it down until it’s finished. I hungered to unravel Faye’s mysterious past right to the very end. Diane Byington’s novel, Who She Is, spoke to me on so many levels. The author touched on the many sensitive issues of the 1960s: Viet Nam, the death of Martin Luther King, racism in the south, women’s rights and so much more. The character she created in Faye, both a victim and a survivor, was compassionately molded into a strong, powerful young lady who developed into a woman who overcame her mysterious childhood. Most of the story centers around this teenage girl, and the story would definitely fit well into the young adult categories as well. Not only is the main character trying to unravel the mysteries of her past, she is also struggling to fit in with her contemporaries. Faye is struggling to find her own sense of identity and become her own woman. Very much a coming-of-age story. The plot is well developed with extraordinary attention to detail, set in the 1960s before the age of computers and high tech. The events that haunted Faye as a teenager are certainly possible and very believable. A powerful story from beginning to end.