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When the Ground Is Hard

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  594 ratings  ·  119 reviews

In this stunning and heartrending tale set in a Swaziland boarding school, two girls of different castes bond over a shared copy of Jane Eyre.

Adele Joubert loves being one of the popular girls at Keziah Christian Academy. She knows the upcoming semester at school is going to be great with her best friend Delia at her side. Then Delia dumps her for a new girl with more mone

Hardcover, 257 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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The Bookavid
Jun 13, 2017 marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2019-releases
bless this author, honestly.
if this is ownvoices mixed-race, too, im just gonna lay on the ground and cry happy tears forever.
thank you, everyone, for putting east african rep in YA.

Thank you so much.
Adele Joubert lived with her mother and brother Rian, with their father visiting occasionally, while they telephoned him every Thursday evening. The time to return to Keziah Christian Academy was fast approaching and when her mother and brother took her to the bus shelter, all she could think of was joining Delia in the seat she would have saved on the bus. But Delia betrayed Adele, dumping her for another girl; Adele found a vacant seat next to Lottie Diamond, a girl she didn’t care for.

Adele a
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
"When the ground is hard, the women dance."

Guys, GUYS, please read this wonderful little book. It's an #ownvoices book about 2 mixed-race girls in Africa and their story is emotional, full of ups and downs, full of questioning your own motives and looking for your place in the world.

Adele, at first, was slightly bratty, constantly thinking about and commenting Lottie's lack of money, manners and pretty clothes. On one hand, I understood her desire to be part of the popular crowd since that was
The Artisan Geek
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
My review for the Penguin Teen Blog Tour is up on my channel!! :D review

Really enjoyed reading this book!! My review will be up on the 30th! :)

I got a copy from Penguin Teen and I am SO happy!! :D

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Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Adele is popular in the Keziah Christian Academy in Swaziland, where your standing is a combination of the color of your skin and your economic status. Adele is lucky: she is mixed race with a white father , who pays full fees. She is able to afford new clothes and treats; however, she arrives late to the bus to return for the school year, and is humiliated to sit in the back with the lower caste (poor and/or black natives.) A new Portuguese girl has taken her place with the popular girls (the " ...more
✨    jamieson   ✨

a mixed race boarding school in Swaziland did u read that bit
Author Malla Nunn beautifully describes the many hierarchies in place at Adele’s school, amongst the teachers, the children attending the school, and the wider country. Within the school, the rich girls hold sway over their less wealthy peers, while actively being nasty to the poor kids. While many of the teachers regularly humiliate the poorer children.
Adele was part of the rich girls crowd, until she's assigned a new roommate, Lottie, a much poorer girl. Adele is deeply aware of all the ways s
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Powerful, rare, true.

I'm always looking for ownvoices books written by authors with perspectives from outside the United States. I'm a public Librarian, and I particularly look for middle-school (grades 6-8) books, as historically I've been invited to present booktalks to virtually all of the thousands of middle school students in my local school district. It's also important that the books have great covers. This book was an easy one to pick for that line-up.

Nunn tells a story apparently based
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is something special.
Gin Jenny (Reading the End)
Adele Joubert is a good girl. Her white father pays her school fees at Keziah Christian Academy, and Adele is permitted in the ranks of the wealthiest girls at the school — until one year she isn’t. Suddenly she has lost her place among the popular clique, and she has to share a room with ferocious Lottie Diamond, who is unequivocally at the bottom of the school’s pecking order. But in living with Lottie, Adele slowly begins to realize the ways that power and injustice function in her world — an ...more
Trigger warnings: racism, apartheid, (view spoiler)

3.5 stars.

I picked this book up purely because it's set in Swaziland (now Eswatini) and I've never read anything set there before. And for the most part, I enjoyed it. But it also would have been good to lead with the fact that it's set in the 1960s under apartheid, because for the majority of the book I just assumed everyone was just racist and bigoted.

I enjoyed this, but I did feel like it took a litt
Liz Filleul
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This YA novel set in a boarding-school for mixed-race students in Swaziland in the 1960s is my favourite read of 2019 so far. Like many other YA boarding-school stories it features a heroine who learns to be brave, her daring and loyal best friend, and a group of mean girls. Unlike every other YA boarding-school story I've read, it highlights the various prejudices and hardships faced by mixed-race girls and women, as well as people with disabilities, in Africa at that time. Heartbreaking and co ...more
Beautiful, lyrical.
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
For this review and many others, please visit -

I honestly didn’t know what to expect going into this book. All I knew was that two girls came together through a copy of a book. Does a book lover need to know much else? What ended up happening was I stumbled into a story of a young girl realizing that she has dreams and worth, and a friendship that changed their lives.

Adele is popular in school. She is mixed race with a white father, so that automatically
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ooh. Yes. This was delightful. High four stars, maybe to be revised up at some point.

Swaziland, perhaps the 1960s. The year isn't named, but Adele is a student while Swaziland is a British protectorate, and Swaziland gained independence in 1968. Her school is one of careful striations of power: the students are all mixed race, and if they've learned anything, it's that race matters. Race, and money. As Adele understands it, being mixed race makes one superior to being fully black, and being ligh
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
For the full review and a short analysis of the gender gap and some initiatives or projects that are working to improve the situation of the women in Eswatini visit:

The 60’s in the British Protectorate of Swaziland: In Keziah Christian Academy, a missionary boarding school for mixed-race students, Adele, a “nice” and well-behaved young woman, is downgraded from the “pretties’” room, a room where only the richest girls sleep. The school is ruled by money..
Jun 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
*Thank you to Penguin for sending me a Netgalley Arc to review!

This is a story about Adele, a mixed-race girl growing up in the 1960's in Swaziland. She attends a boarding school with other mixed-race children, where she is popular and enjoys the benefits of her family's economic status. However, this year, things change when she is cast out of the popular group and forced to roommate with Lottie, a troublemaker from a poor family. While Adele is not happy with this development at first, this bo
Sue Hedin
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
I am a fan of Malla Nunn's South African apartheid detective books and saw that she had written a young adult novel set in Swaziland. Glad I picked this one up! It was an excellent book on growing up in Swaziland as a mixed race young girl during apartheid. You get a great feel for what happened to these kids who had a sketchy place in native communities and no place in white ones. By law they were all sent to mixed race boarding schools, if school could be afforded or paid for by 'god fearing' ...more
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
In a Swaziland mixed-race boarding school, being judged and ranked based on skin color and economic status are "how things are". When Adele is replaced by a richer girl in the top clique, she is forced to room with Lottie, who doesn't get the rules. It soon becomes clear that Lottie does know how things are, but unlike the "good girls" she refuses to accept them. Adele starts questioning why things are the way they are, and if being sweet like honey is the best way forward in a world where wealt ...more
I loved this book, set in a Christian boarding school for "mixed race" children in the British protectorate of 1965 Swaziland. Economic barriers, racial barriers, social barriers - we hide behind and are limited by artificial walls. And the narrator was Bahni Turpin - I would listen to her read the phone book!
Sonya Leonard
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I can’t believe this book isn’t more popular! It’s such a well written story that would appeal to all ages, set in a country that we rarely get the opportunity to read about. I highly recommend this book. Order it now! (From an independent bookstore of course)
Debra Goodman
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
A story of two girls navigating economic and racial injustice at a boarding school in Swaziland. A wonderful window into a world that Adele both takes for granted and is discovering at the same time. A coming of age story where a girl who does everything to be good and successful learns to be herself. And ultimately the story of an unlikely friendship crossing economic, caste-like boundaries. A page turner - hard to put it down once you get started.
L.A. Larkin
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
Moving, poignant, beautifully written. A great read for YA and adults too.
Jul 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Every now and then you read a book that is an utter surprise and delight. This book was so good right from the start that I read this in one sitting. I love following these girls throughout their school year. In this story, so many assumptions are made about people based on their class, and those judgments transferred from the parents to their children. What I found so beautiful in this story was watching these two girls, who were seemingly enemies having grown up in very different economic situ ...more
Beppie Keane
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When the Ground is Hard, by Malla Nunn: Set in apartheid Swaziland (now Eswatini) of the 1960s, this novel follows Adele Joubert through a year at her boarding school for coloured (ie, mixed-race) children. It includes all that that you expect from a young adult coming-of-age story -- discovering who your true friends are, finding the courage to do the right thing and be true to yourself, learning more about and coming to understand your parents -- but it is so much more than that.

I read this n
Sep 19, 2019 rated it liked it
When The Ground is Hard gave me a picture into a world, a culture, a time I never would've otherwise knew
Jul 03, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars!
(this is for movement) (This book was provided to me as an ARC by Penguin Teen! Thank you!!!)

When the Ground is Hard is a story that seems simple: Adele is a 16 year old mixed-race girl in Swaziland in 1965 who goes to a Christian boarding school. She was once part of the very popular girls-girls who have rich fathers who pay tuition in full-and at the start of the school year, is forced out by a brand new, very rich girl. Adele is forced to room with one of the poor girls-Lottie-with
Jessica Ward
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Totally wasn’t expecting to like it so much but I really did. It was so interesting and so darn sweet. The beauty of friendship and family, the struggles of being mixed race, the struggles of growing up and learning to take the high road against the bullies, to show strength and bravery when faced with adversity - this book has so many lessons you can take from it. The whole story was just so bitter sweet and lovely. Definitely recommend this one.
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
This 2019 winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for young-adult literature is set in 1960s Swaziland [officially renamed in 2018 to the Kingdom of eSwatini]. Adele Joubert, 16, attends the Keziah Christian Academy, a school for mixed-race students the author based on one attended by her mother, aunt, and grandmother, and which the author herself attended before emigrating to Australia when she was fourteen.

The world of Keziah is a microcosm of the country itself, rigidly divided by color (a
Emily (emilykatereads)
"Mrs. Vincent will never know what it means to live in the space between black people and white people. The spitting boy will keep up her tonight. And while she struggles with the challenge of spreading God's love, Lottie will lie awake and remember her dead father and her broken mother."

When the Ground is Hard is a story about Adele as she attends a mixed race boarding school called Keziah Christian Academy. She's one of the top popular girls, because her white father is rich enough to pay all
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Malla Nunn grew up in Swaziland before moving with her parents to Perth in the 1970s. She attended university in WA and then in the US. In New York, she worked on film sets, wrote her first screenplay and met her American husband to be, before returning to Australia, where she began writing and directing short films and corporate videos. Fade to White, Sweetbreeze and Servant of the Ancestors have ...more

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