Call Me Athena: Girl from Detroit by Colby Cedar Smith


Call Me Athena: Girl from Detroit – Colby Cedar Smith, Andrews McMeel, 2021.  9781524865450

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

What did you like about the book? In 1934 16-year-old twins Mary and Marguerite are living in a tiny apartment in Detroit with their parents and brothers.  Their French mother is once again pregnant.  Their Greek father has a small grocery store that Mary would rather work in than help her mother in the house.  Now her father has decided that it is time Mary is married – to a man twice her age who has a furniture store.  Devastated, Mary hides in the cellar where she finds letters written between her mother and father during WWI.  She discovers that her mother nursed her father when he was wounded in battle. Written as a novel-in-verse, the stories shift back and forth in time, giving the reader the background that leads to the present day.  Mary’s life changes dramatically when she meets Billy – how can she marry this older man?

The glimpses into France during WWI and Detroit in the early 1930s when Henry Ford was an icon are well realized.  I am from the Detroit area and noted so many things I recognized like The Fox Theatre and Belle Isle.  All characters present as White.

Anything you did not like about the book?  It took me quite a while to get used to the switch in timelines between 1933-34 and 1917-18 – also just who was speaking.  An odd thing but the girl on the cover looks more like a geisha to me than someone French/Greek.

To whom would you recommend this book? Those who not only like novels-in-verse, but also historical fiction that encompasses the time between 1917-1934, would be drawn to this book.

Who should buy this book? Public and high school libraries

Where would you shelve it? YA Fiction

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  Very close to top

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Katrina Yurenka, Retired Librarian, Editor, Youth Services Book Review

Date of Review: October 4, 2021

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