For Tom Bender, seventh grade isn't all that different from the grades that came before. He still attends a private Catholic school, St. Catherine's. He's still pretty much best friends with Jeff Hicks. He still loves the Cobra, a sports car that he spends plenty of time dreaming about. The few things that are different this year? He has great teacher, Mrs. Tracy. Jeff's uncle actually owns a Cobra, and Jeff has promised Tom a ride in it. He's in love with Courtney Zisky, a girl he fantasizes about saving from make-believe situations on a daily basis. Oh, and Jessica Feeney shows up in his classroom.
The day starts out regular enough. Morning prayers, the announcement of a class election, and the impending arrival of a new girl in their class. And then things change more than anyone could have ever imagined, because Mrs. Tracy informs her students that Jessica, the new girl, is unlike anyone they've ever met before. Jessica was burned in a fire, a terrible, horrible tragedy, and she looks different than anyone these kids have ever seen. Tom has only a short time to think about what this means before she's there, the Firegirl, hideously disfigured yet someone how still wholly alive.
What follows in the few short weeks that Jessica Feeney is in his class has a life-changing impact on Tom's life. His friend's jokes and elaborate stories they've made up for how Jessica got burned no longer seem funny. His daydreams keeping slipping Courtney out and Jessica in. And during the class election, where Tom wanted to nominate Courtney so she'd know how he felt about her, he's unable to say anything at all. He takes Jessica her homework during one of her many school absences, and learns the truth behind how she was burned, and he cries because she's just a kid like he himself is. Even a ride in the Cobra, which Tom has been dreaming about for years, is pushed by the wayside.
FIREGIRL is the story of being different, of change, and of acceptance. There are no real happily-ever-afters in this book. Jessica isn't miraculously healed, Tom doesn't morph into a superhero or righter of all wrongs, and the students in Mrs. Tracy's class don't all learn that you can accept people who are different. Instead, this is the story of individual strength, of the internal struggle to balance what you know is right with what is wrong. A very inspiring story, indeed.show more