The Girl of Fire and Thorns, when I read it for the Truman Award nomination in Misssouri, back in 2013. Even though I haven't read on in that series yet, I knew I had to try this one when I heard it. And I guess I had assumed it would be more of a fantasy story, when really it is a historical fiction story with a tiny fantasy element in it. But it doesn't matter that it was different than I thought, I still loved it! And knowing it is part of a series, I am so eager for the 2nd book, and don't know how I'll wait until next year for it!
The story is set back in the time of the Gold Rush. The main character is Leah, and she lives in Georgia with her mother and father. Leah has an ability that she can sense gold. If it is anywhere near, she gets a little tickle in her brain and it is something that gets stronger as she gets closer, or as the amount of the gold gets bigger. To the point she can barely avoid it without getting a horrible headache or sick. Her best friend is a boy named Jefferson who has an Irish father and a Native American mother. His father has a horrible temper and treats Jefferson really bad. One day Jefferson shows up at school with a flyer about people traveling to California in search of a treasure trove of gold that is proclaimed to be there. After one horrible day with his father, he comes and tries to convince Leah to leave with him. He tells her she could come as his wife, or they could be brother and sister. But she doesn't want to leave her parents, her father is sick, and anyway, she loves them. And she's sure that at some point they will probably head that way.
Then the unthinkable happens. Leah comes home to find her parents have been killed. Whoever it was has also taken the gold they had hidden away. Her Uncle Hiram, who she's rarely seen, shows up about the same time to take over as her guardian. And with her senses, she is able to sense that he is probably the one who killed them and took their gold. It seems he knows what she can do, and she doesn't want to stay to help him. She knows it will not be good. So she finds a way to take off on her own, she cuts her hair, dresses as a boy, and follows others on their way. She leaves a false trail for her uncle. Along the way she is able to get hooked up with some other wagon trains and groups. She even runs into Jefferson again in Independence, Missouri.
On the trail there will be many hard times, she will learn to work hard to try to keep her cover as a boy. At the same time things will happen to her, she will start to have her body change, as any girl her age might be doing. There will be injuries, and deaths, and need to find food and water. They will run into Indians and other dangers. The whole time she must try to keep being a girl a secret, and try to figure out just what her relationship with Jefferson is. Not to mention hiding her ability to find gold.
Such a great book, I could barely put it down any time I was reading it on break at work. As I said in the first paragraph, I loved it so much, I don't know how I'm going to wait until the next one comes out. Hopefully I can get an egalley of it as well. I highly recommend this historical fiction for teens. It will be a definite addition to the school library where I work as well!