Holt, Kimberly Willis. Dear Hank Williams
April 14th 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Tate lives in Louisia with her Aunt Patty Cake and Uncle Jolly in Louisiana in 1948, and when her class has an assignment to write to a pen pal, Tate picks Hank Williams. In letters spread over a many months, she tells Hank about the goings on of her family and community. Others in her class write to relatives, or to students in Japan, although there are still bad feelings about the Japanese. Uncle Jolly frequently has his heart broken, Aunt Patty Cake sells door-to-door cosmetics, and Tate gets into a fair amount of trouble with her brother, Frog. The circumstances leading to her not living with her parents are mysterious, but we eventually find out the fate of her mother and father. Hank sends several autographed pictures, and Tate eventually gets to see him perform.
Strengths: I liked how several historical occurrences were woven into the story, and the details of daily life are quite good.
Weaknesses: Like many younger MG books, this one is more anecdotal than plot driven. This leads students in middle school to claim that "nothing happens". While the mystery involving Tate's mother drives the story a bit, I would have liked more of a focus for forward development and less atmosphere.
What I really think: Way too sad. Unnecessary to kill the character who dies. It's almost an afterthought, and brings down an otherwise serviceable book. I was contemplating buying it because it is a good historical novel, but now I think I'll pass.