Kelly Knapp's Reviews > Ninth Ward

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
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's review
May 06, 2012

really liked it
Recommended to Kelly by: Goodreads Firstreads giveaway
Recommended for: girls, reluctant readers, YA history buffs.

This book is a coming of age story set during Hurricane Katrina. Lanesha is a twelve year old orphan being raised by the midwife who birthed her. She has relatives, but they don’t want her. In addition, Lanesha has been ostracized by other children because she is different. Lanesha can see the other side. Ghosts roam everywhere and Lanesha knows they are there.
As Katrina approaches, Lanesha finds herself with two people suddenly showing interest in her and she does not trust their motives. One is a girl who seems to suddenly want to be her friend and the other is a boy from the neighborhood who wants her to care for a dog that his mother won’t allow him to keep.
Then, as the hurricane bears down, Lanesha’s caregiver begins to have nightmares, which she cannot interpret and seems to emotionally paralyze her. Lanesha is scared, but takes over preparing for the hurricane and the home.
Then, Katrina hits and her caregiver tells Lanesha that she will have to save herself and her friend, because the dreams mean that the caregiver is dying. Can Lanesha step up and save her friend or will Katrina and its aftermath prove the stronger?

This was a great story. The author is able to weave a story of aspiration around a series of tragedies during Katrina. Mixing religion, ESP, and common sense with the angst of growing up, the characters are shown making many of the decisions that interviews revealed were made in reality during Katrina.
In addition, the author uses the protagonist to introduce challenging vocabulary by making her into an budding sesquipedalian. Characterization is well developed. Mama Ya Ya is an intriguing mixture of old school witch doctor mixed with an up-to-date homeo-pathologist. Lanesha is a conflicted up and coming teen. She loves Mama Ya Ya, but we see her pre-occupation with her “uptown” relatives. The other characters are not as fleshed out, but there is still enough to completely interact with Lanesha.
Using Hurricane Katrina as the setting was a terrific idea. Many children ask. “Why didn’t everyone leave New Orleans?” The answers to that question are given with a simplicity that allows the reader to see that many had little choice about staying or leaving and others simply couldn’t see the dangers.
I will look forward to more books from Jewell Parker Rhodes
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