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Fireflies in December (Jessilyn Lassiter #1)

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  3,657 Ratings  ·  497 Reviews
The summer I turned thirteen, I thought I killed a man. So begins the story of Jessilyn Lassiter, a young girl whose world is torn apart the summer of 1932. When Jessilyn's best friend, Gemma, loses her parents in a tragic fire, Jessilyn's father vows to care for her as his own, despite the fact that Gemma is black and prejudice is prevalent in their southern Virginia town ...more
Hardcover, Large Print, 350 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Center Point (first published December 22nd 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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It’s no secret that I often rate books not by plot but by how much I loved the characters. I know that makes me somewhat of an emotional reviewer, making allowances for horrible plot-holes because “the characters were just so wonderful” but I will freely admit to it.
This book, however, was not one in which I make allowances for problems with plot and pacing because of my love for the characters. This book, with its wonderful cast of realistic characters, also had a perfectly paced, tightly craf
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 14, 2009 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jon by: Ron Andrea
Jessilyn Lassiter tells her tale of mishaps, struggles and discoveries during the summer of 1932. She's just turned thirteen and she finds trouble, or trouble finds her, just about every time she opens her mouth. Her best friend is Gemma, a slightly older African-American girl whose family lives on her daddy's farm.

All is as it should be in the south in the 30s, including segregation of the races, and everyone knows their place in the world. That is until a freak lightning strike from a thunder
Lynn Spencer
Though marketed as adult fiction, this is really more a coming-of-age novel than anything else. The heroine, Jessilyn Lassiter, has had a somewhat sheltered childhood is rural Virginia. However, in 1932, Jessilyn turns 13, and things really change. Gemma, the daughter of a black couple employed by the Lassiters, is the sole survivor of a fire and after she loses her parents, Jessilyn's father declares that he will take in Gemma and raise her as his own.

Not surprisingly for the time, this decisio
Jan 21, 2015 Kimberly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful book. I got this book for free from the Tyndale Rewards program. The cover grabbed me and so I knew I had to read it.
I just loved it. Very descriptive, bringing everything to life. The story line is a sensitive one with the KKK at its heart, prejudice, hurts, fears ect. The story took place in Virginia, the same state as I reside in. I personally have even witnessed KKK flags and meetings in a small tucked away county and when seeing it, thought I was dreaming. I couldn't bel
Jun 06, 2009 Rap rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book tells the story of a 13 year old girl growing up in the segregated south of 1932. The summer she turns 13 she learns new lessons in life when her family takes in her best friend who is black and suddenly orphaned. She grows up a lot that summer as she faces discrimination and danger for her families actions. It challenges us to not take for granted the advances we made or forget that there are those still filled with hatred and evil based on prejudiced.
Found this book on my Kindle -I checked later and it turns out I had bought this book six years ago. Ooops! I devoured it in one sitting last night, it was that good. Jessie at thirteen is the kind of heroine I wish I was at any age. She's so strong and courageous and I loved the relationship she has with her parents, Gemma and Luke (LUKE YOU ALL. LUKE!!)

Onto the next book now. Thank goodness for e-books from libraries, I don't have to wait.
Jan 03, 2014 Beth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An old co-worker got a job at a christian book publisher, and gave me an ARC copy of this book back in 2008. It has sat on my bookshelf for 6 years, until last week when I decided to open it up for the first time.

I never do this, but I decided not to finish this book. I got to page 147, chapter 13, and decided that this book is just not worth my time to finish. I did read over half of it, so I feel that gives enough insight for a somewhat fair review and rating.

Set in the 1930's, Fireflies in De
Jan 12, 2013 Chidori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that you'd think would be on some required reading list. It has been compared to Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, but I honestly think it's better. The sequel is more along the lines of Mockingbird. This one is darker, uglier, with touches of both humor and romance. Think Mockingbird as Tom Sawyer and Fireflies as Huckleberry Finn.

The POV of a child makes this honest rather than preachy or melodramatic, be it about racism or faith. I love the interaction between al
Jul 05, 2011 Jeanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best for me for 2012. If you like to Kill a Mockingbird and their strong characters, you will like this. Fireflies shows the smallest light can bring forth what is good and true. A story of Jessilyn and her family in the early 30's who had a farm, who worked hard, loved their neighbors. One of their neighbors house caught on fire and the family was killed except Gemma. Jessilyn's family takes her in, however, because she is black, her family is outed by the community. This story is ab ...more
Dec 02, 2009 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel really reminds me of "To Kill a Mockingbird". The narrator is a young girl from the south. It deals with the racial tension, especially the Klan. I really enjoyed it. In fact maybe as much or ever more than Mockingbird. If you liked Mockingbird, you will like this book. I feel the author developed the main characters so well that I felt like I knew them and they were my friends. It is a very good read. I even got it free on my Kindle. What more can you ask for. With the Kindle I have ...more
Nov 24, 2009 Usako rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am pleased with this free Kindle book. The reason for the title sets the tone of the entire novel!

That light is bright enough to light up a little speck of the night sky so a man can see it a ways away. That's what God expects us to do. We're to be lights in the dark, cold days that are this world. Like fireflies in December.
Mar 03, 2009 Angela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: signed
I was instantly attached to the characters, feeling like they were old friends. There aren't many that can successfully pull off telling a story through a child's eyes, but I believed it. I was 13 years old again myself, experiencing emotions I didn't fully understand.

Fantastic work for a first-time novelist.
Jennifer Hess
Feb 24, 2015 Jennifer Hess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good Read

It was a good, wholesome story and was enjoyable. I wasn't a huge fan of the ending as I would have much rather they told what happened to all the characters, especially the main character as she grew. Nonetheless, a good message overall.
Oct 30, 2014 Irene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! This is one story I won't soon be forgetting!
Jan 06, 2011 Mich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

YES YES YES YES>> one of the best books i've read in a long time!!
and yeah(freebie on kindle!)
well worth buying..
Nicole Smith
Jan 23, 2017 Nicole Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a gem I found glancing at the shelf on my way out of the library, and I’m sure glad I picked it up! Set in the south and dealing with racism, this book had elements that harkened back to To Kill A Mockingbird in my mind. In both books, I am drawn to the father, and deeply respect his views and how he treats people in his life, including his daughter.

The way the author reminds us that we can make a difference, as an individual, to those around us was a prevailing theme shown across mult
C.J. Darlington
"The summer I turned thirteen, I thought I'd killed a man."

In these first eleven words of Fireflies in December we realize Jessilyn Lassiter's world is pregnant with change. Not only is she walking that tenuous line between childhood and womanhood, but during the summer of 1932 Jessilyn finds herself in the crosshairs of man's hatred for his fellow man.

When her best friend Gemma's parents are tragically killed in a fire, Jessilyn's father takes the girl in. No matter that she's as dark as coffee
Dec 30, 2010 AnJa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to AnJa by: Kindle
Got this as a free download in my phone's kindle app. A coming-of-age story told through the eyes of a courageous and independent 13 year old white girl. It is about the complexities of racism excalating hatred, descrimination and violence paving way to the notorious Klan in the southern of america during the mid-20th century. It tells of loyalty, morality, love and convictions. Chapter one's opening statement as told by Jessilyn, the young heroine-"The summer I turned thirteen I thought I'd ki ...more
Dec 20, 2010 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
This book is based in the Southern US during Depression Era of the 1930's. Jessilyn Lassiter is a white girl living on a farm, who has an African American best friend named Gemma. Gemma's parents die in an accidental fire and Gemma comes to live with Jessilyn. Jessilyn has a temper, quick tongue and raging curosity that often gets her in trouble

The people in the town of Calloway are not accepting of the decision for a white family to take in a 'colored' girl. Because of this, they are made to b
C.C. Thomas
Jul 09, 2012 C.C. Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
This is a beautifully written and haunting story of the pains of growing up and doing the right thing when it seems as if all the adults, your supposed role models, are doing the wrong things. Really wrong things.

Jessilynn Lassiter's 13th birthday party should have been a moment of fun in her life, full of new beginnings, but instead ushers in a season of heartache and hatred. When her BFF Gemma loses her parents in a house fire, the Lassiters take her into their home. They knew it might raise s
"Aint' no way to change the world for the better if you can't stand up for what's right when everyone else is wrong."

FIREFLIES IN DECEMBER is a quick and endearing read with a purposeful and encouraging message. Not exactly profound literature. It's a bit fanciful at times, with underdeveloped characters; the exception being Jessilyn Lassiter, the feisty and strong-willed, thirteen-year-old narrator/protagonist. Another element that could have been more polished is dialogue. Conversations betwe
May 13, 2011 Heidi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-loan
I LOVED this book. I had a hard time putting it down.

Jessilyn Lassiter is a 13-year-old girl growing up in the south. She's blessed with a loving Christian family. Her best friend is Gemma, the daughter of a couple who help her parents out on their farm. When Gemma's parents are killed during a lightening storm, she comes to live with the Lassiter family. The problem is that Gemma is "colored" and the Lassiters are white. This does not sit well with the community. The story is set during the 19
Nov 24, 2009 kelley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, kindle
Fireflies in December takes place in 1932 in South Virginia. Because the Lassiter's have taken in an orphaned black girl whose parents were employed by them their friends and neighbors soon distance themselves. The Lassiter's find themselves victims of several Ku Klux Klan visits. This is a terrifying and troubling experience for all of them.

The story is well written. Jessilyn Lassiter is the protagonist of this story and as we follow her story we see how difficult it was living in the south and
Michelle Wegner
Jan 19, 2012 Michelle Wegner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful coming of age novel set in the depression era south. The story is told by a 13 year old girl who finds herself in the middle of a KKK war against her family who has chosen to adopt her friend whose parents were both killed. A black girl living with a white family was considered a threat to the "way things should be" in their community, and sadly the main character is faced with understanding racism and all its hatred for the first time. The lessons of faith the family learns ...more
In 1932, Gemma's parents are killed in a house fire so she comes to live with her 13 year old best friend's family. The problem is that her best friend, Jessilyn, is white and Gemma is black. This doesn't sit well with the small community in Virginia. The KKK doesn't like the arrangement at all and attemtp to burn a cross in the front yard. Jessilyn shoots Walt Blevins and he vows to get revenge on her and her faather tries to make sure she is never alone so he can't get to her. Jessilyn, on the ...more
Jul 07, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: Jaoni Wood
A good friend and fellow book lover recommended this book to me recently. Seeing that Fireflies in December was a first novel for the author AND written just a couple years ago I was not expecting much, but was genuinely surprised. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Valent hit a home run with this story. It is set in southern Virginia in the early 1930s so it was a tad reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird because the heroine is a young girl and because the story circles around racial tensions in her
Dec 12, 2008 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A family takes in a young girl of another race after her parents pass away, and open themselves up to being ostricized by an entire town. This is also the story of a girl growing up. New feelings enter her mind. New experiences happen to her from a first crush to first brush with hatred.

This was an extremely vivid story that strikes you with its imagery. The author held me in an emotional grasp on more than one occasion as I eagerly read each page. Jessilyn runs the gammut of emotions and experi
Lisa  (Bookworm Lisa)
Dec 07, 2009 Lisa (Bookworm Lisa) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
This is an excellent book, it is a very powerful story of the control that racism can weild.

This book is set in the 1930's in the Southern United States. Jessilyn's best friend is a black girl named Gemma. Gemma's parents work for Jessilyn's parents on their farm. Lightning strikes the home that the black family are living in, killing the parents. Gemma is taken in by Jessilyn's family, the Lassiter's.

The community turns against the family and the KKK come into the picture. It's hard to imagine
A Historical Southern Fiction novel that just landed a 5-star rating from me, and a place on my "Favorites" shelf. Amazing. Just ... amazing.

EDIT 5/31/11: I have now read Cottonwood Whispers (Book 2) and Catching Moondrops (Book 3) and ALL THREE are now on my "Favorites" shelf! This is a FANTASTIC series! I would love to provide a well worded beautiful review, but I just can't do these books justice. They were beyond remarkable!
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Christian Books: Jennifer Erin Valent Interview & Book Giveaway 2 19 Aug 04, 2013 05:23AM  
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Jennifer Erin Valent is the 2007 winner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest and 2010 Christy Award winner for Fireflies in December. She lives in central Virginia, where she has worked as a nanny for over fifteen years. A lifelong resident of the South, her surroundings help to color the scenes and characters she writes.
More about Jennifer Erin Valent...

Other Books in the Series

Jessilyn Lassiter (3 books)
  • Cottonwood Whispers
  • Catching Moondrops

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“That light is bright enough to light up a little speck of the night sky so a man can see it a ways away. That's what God expects us to do. We're to be lights in the dark, cold days that are this world. Like fireflies in December.
“Daddy didn’t say anything for a minute or so, and then he reached up and caught a firefly as it glowed beside him. “See this light?” he asked me when the firefly lit up his hand.


“That light is bright enough to light up a little speck of the night sky so a man can see it a ways away. That’s what God expects us to do. We’re to be lights in the dark, cold days that are this world. Like fireflies in December.”

“Time meandered on without Gemma’s momma and daddy, and it meandered on without Cy fuller and Walt Blevins. . . but those of us left behind viewed life more dearly, felt it more keenly. I’d learned a bit more about God and I’d seen His powerful hands at work. As I was growing, my heart was changing. And the way I figured it, there were lessons learned in those dark days that would help me for years to come.”

“As I sat on the porch on that December day . . . I leaned my head against the rail and sighed deeply. The way I figured it just then, my summer may have been full of bad luck, but my life wasn’t. I figured as far as family went, I was one of the luckiest girls alive.”
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