My 10 year old and I both wholeheartedly enjoyed this wonderful and well written story.
Good Reads has a great summary: "Ivy June Mosely and Catherine Combs, two girls from different parts of Kentucky, are participating in the first seventh-grade student exchange program between their schools. The girls will stay at each other’s homes, attend school together, and record their experience in their journals. Catherine and her family have a beautiful home with plenty of space. Since Ivy June’s house is crowded, she lives with her grandparents. Her Pappaw works in the coal mines supporting four generations of kinfolk. Ivy June can’t wait until he leaves that mine forever and retires. As the girls get closer, they discover they’re more alike than different, especially when they face the terror of not knowing what’s happening to those they love most." - from goodreads.com
We really liked that both families are sincere Christians and several church services are described; talk of God, prayer and faith is done respectfully and there is even a beautiful section on the power of prayer pg 124-126. Note with caution that the Lords name is used repeatedly (pg 54,75,242,251, 269,265, 244). In some cases, the use of the Lord's name seems to be a sincere call to God for strength, but in others, it is clearly used as a casual expression of relief/frustration.
There is some talk about boys - falling in love, talking on the phone, and flirting on the bus. One friend of Ivy June's even kisses a boy. My 10 year old found this a bit silly, but I imagine that many 12 and 13 year olds will more easily relate to these feelings, and that is likely more of the target audience here too.
The girls are so real and the message of being open to understanding those who live differently from us is so relevant and compellingly told. My daughter shed tears over the crisis at the end of the book and we both found ourselves cheering for these two lovely girls. I wholeheartedly encourage moms to pick this one up and read it with daughter(s) when they reach middle school age!