Can I get a cover redesign, please?

Ashes of Roses, by Mary Jane Auch (2002)

This book is in serious need of a booktalk. I mean, look at it. That cover is atrocious. I feel like her porcelain eyes are burning into my soul. What middle schooler is going to pick up this book? NOT A ONE. Which is unfortunate, because I think they might really like it.

Margaret “Rose” Nolan is sixteen and is aboard a ship with her entire family, coming to America. When her baby brother is designated as having a troubling eye condition at Ellis Island, for which they deny entry into the country, the family must split up, sending Da Nolan (Da, being the Irish version of “Dad”) and Baby Nolan back to the home country, while the four Nolan women carry on. Soon, however, Ma Nolan can’t take the separation from her husband and baby and carts the girls back to the shipyard. But Rose knows what awaits her back in Ireland: an early loveless marriage and instant motherhood. And this is not a life she wants.

So as the family is preparing to climb back aboard a ship headed for home, Rose puts her foot down and insists on staying in America on her own. Soon, her 12-year-old sister Maureen insists, too, and in desperation, their mother agrees to leave them. But as soon as their mother and youngest sister leave the harbor, Rose and Maureen are stuck with a troubling question: Now what? The rest of the story follows the two sisters as they make their way on their own in bustling New York City in 1911. And for those of you who know your NYC history, you won’t be surprised to learn that the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire plays a harrowing role in the climax of this exciting coming-of-age novel.

Luckily, I get to booktalk this book during my upcoming middle school student teaching placement for a group of eighth graders who get extra credit for reading anything related to American history, so it may just be saved from an early death by non-circulation. At least in one library.

A little slow, until the last 50 pages that is: 1.5 stars


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