77. A Different Blue, by Amy Harmon
Very heart-felt, lovely, clean prose, great tension between Blue and Wilson, the two main characters. And I'm so happy for Amy Harmon, an indie author who made the NYT bestseller's list with this novel.
The story: Blue Echohawk spent most of her childhood living with Jimmy Echohawk, a drifter who spent much of his time in the deserts of Nevada and Arizona, looking for wood to carve. Blue believed Jimmy was her father, until his unexpected disappearance landed her with his half-sister, Cheryl, who told Blue the truth: Jimmy found her in his truck when she was two, and kept her.
At nineteen, Blue is a year older than the other seniors in her high school, and tougher too. She dresses provocatively and uses sex as a way to fill her craving for physical affection. When Darcy Wilson first sees her in his classroom, he thinks for sure she's going to be the student that makes his life a living hell.
Luckily, both Blue and Wilson are wrong. Over the course of that year, Blue discovers a real interest in the history lessons that Wilson provides. And when the school year ends and Blue finds herself in trouble, Wilson proves to be a real friend, supporting Blue and helping her uncover the secrets about her past.
I was initially a little concerned about what looked like an inappropriate teacher-student romance. But none of that happened. For much of the book, Blue and Wilson were just friends. Harmon spent a lot of time developing Blue, so that by the end I liked her, I admired her, and I cheered for her. Also, the book made me cry, which I hadn't expected (not in a sad this-is-so-horrible way, but simply because I was moved).
The book isn't perfect: the opener read like some sort of crime procedural, which threw me a little; the book is very much not like that. It also starts off slowly with a lot of classroom/history instruction--although Harmon does eventually tie this back in. Overall, a great read.