Fireflies in December by Jennifer Valent is not a book to read if you don’t want an emotionally charged experience that will take you through several ups and downs as a young girl confronts evil face to face. Jessilyn Lassiter’s struggles, hopes, and dreams feel so real that the reader of her dramatic story can’t help but fall in love with her and her book. Jessilyn is 13 and lives in the South at a time when it is dangerous for her family to take in her best friend Jemma–who is black–after Jemma’s parents die in a tragic fire. In fact, a local branch of the KKK meets just down the road from Jessilyn–and Jessilyn’s adventurous spirit finds her tangled up with them more than once. Fortunately she has the protection of her father, the wisdom of her God-fearing mother, and the friendship of Luke Talley to guide her through the most tumultuous summer of her young life.
This was an extremely enjoyable book to listen to. There are lots of scenes full of dramatic tension which are balanced against lighthearted childhood adventures and then it all ends with a powerful message about the importance of faith. The characters are memorable and I can still call them up vividly in my imagination weeks later. If you enjoyed “To Kill a Mockingbird” you will find the same themes of racial conflict explored here, and gain the same sort of inspiration from seeing characters fight against injustice. Valent well deserved to win the Christian Writers Guild’s 2007 Operation First Novel contest and I look forward to reading more from her. I highly recommend this engaging novel, it’s a great coming-of-age story for teens but readers of all ages will easily identify with the human drama contained within.