Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth

Violet Raines reminds me a little bit of Anne of Green Gables. She’s impulsive, a bit of a wild child, and has a good heart. She is the perfect modern-day heroine for middle graders, especially those about to enter middle school.

Violet lives with her mother in Mitchell Hammock, a tiny town in Florida. Mitchell Hammock is small enough that she and her Ma don’t need a car to get around because everything they need is right there in the neighborhood. Violet’s best friend in the world, Lottie, even lives right down the street. Together Violet, Lottie, and their friend Eddie explore the woods around town, hang out in their secret hiding places, and collect BrainFreeze cups so that they can redeem them for a free BrainFreeze.

All of this changes when Melissa Gold moves to town. She and her parents move to Mitchell Hammock from Detroit, Michigan. Far from being small-town folk, they have central air conditioning installed in their house, they wear “city clothes”, and they obviously have more money than the rest of the townsfolk. Melissa’s hoity-toity attitude irritates Violet, who decides that playing pranks on Melissa and otherwise torturing her will be a great way to end the summer. She is counting on Lottie’s help in that area, but is shocked when Lottie befriends Melissa. Suddenly, Violet’s world is turned sideways. She is slowly losing her best friend, Melissa will not stop teasing her about her “boyfriend”, Eddie, and Violet can’t even begin to sort through all of her feelings.

To make things even worse, Lottie’s house is struck by lightning and almost completely destroyed.  Lottie and her sisters are staying with Melissa’s family and may lose their house completely.  So while Violet is furious at Lottie’s betrayal of their friendship (in her eyes), she is also heartbroken for the family she has come to know as her own.  Whoever said growing up was easy, never had to grow up!

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning is the perfect book for rising middle schoolers. It beautifully depicts the struggles and triumphs of middle grade friendships- especially those tricky friendships that cross gender lines. It also provides a wonderful picture of growing up, growing friendships, and growing maturity. This is a home run book that I expect will find an audience similar to Shug.

As an aside, I love, love, love the first line of this novel:  “When Eddie B. dared me to walk the net bridge over the Elijah Hatchett River where we’d seen an alligator and another kid got bit by a coral snake, I wasn’t scared- I just didn’t feel like doing it right then.”  The voice in that line alone will pull you into the book, because you can already sense that little bit of defiance in Violet.