Tom Bender is a typical Grade 7 kid. He’s shy, fascinated by sports cars (he’s dying for a ride in his best friend’s uncle’s Cobra!) and has a crush on a girl. He and his classmates are shaken up though, when Jessica joins their class.
Jessica is no ordinary girl. Imagine what it might feel like to be trapped inside a burning car as it ignites, leaving you screaming for it to stop, for water and ice to stop your body from burning any more. Imagine how terrible it would feel to lose your once-beautiful face, to be called “Firegirl” by your peers. Imagine holding out your hand to say your prayers with the whole class and have a classmate purposely avoid touching it.
While all the other students reject Jessica, Tom is kind and brave enough to hold her hand. He gets to know her and listens to the story behind her scars, changing his outlook on life.
Though perhaps a bit slow in its plot development, Tony Abbott’s compelling book explicitly addresses social and moral issues such as peer pressure and discrimination based on outer appearances. Told through the eyes of Tom, it challenges readers to think about their own vulnerabilities, and assumptions that they might make. It also is a tale about courage — both the successes and challenges that can arise from taking the extra step to try and live life “normally.”
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