Appalachian Justice – Melinda Clayton

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Salem West at Rainbow Reader recommended I try “Appalachian Justice.” Thank you, Salem! It was love at first paragraph. My favorite books as a kid were My Side of the Mountain (Puffin Modern Classics) and Island of the Blue Dolphins (Illustrated) so how could I not be immediately drawn to Billy Mae’s Appalachian hermitage? Though the setting grabbed me right away, what kept me was Billy Mae’s voice. Clayton nailed the speech, inflection and expression of small-town Appalachia. Billy Mae is crusty but immediately accessible. (My only complaint and what kept the book from 5 stars is that the rest of the characters seemed a bit cliched, just a wee too stereotypical.) Clayton develops tension from the get-go and is able to sustain it. And thank you, Ms. Clayton for having a realistic relationship between Billy Mae and Corinne, not just a mawkish romance. How refreshing! A poignant page-turner, “Justice” is an outstanding debut from an original voice.

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