Shanny on Her Own by Lael Littke
originally published 1985
Archway, 2nd printing, 1988
Genre: Young adult
Synopsis & Review: Fifteen-year-old Shanny has been sent to stay in rural Idaho with her great-aunt Adabelle for six weeks of her summer, ostensibly to help Aunt Adabelle prepare for her move off her ranch and into a nursing home, but also to keep Shanny out of trouble after the Great Dog Food Caper. As her mother puts it, Shanny is “finding herself,” which means she looks nothing like her peers in Wolf Creek, Idaho, from her purple-dyed rat tail haircut to her go-go boots. And Shanny is fine with that, sure that the local yokels have nothing to offer. That is, until she meets Thor. Thor has Sex Appeal, and lots of it, and he’s a sweetheart to boot. Dazed by Thor’s looks and charm, Shanny becomes involved with Wolf Creek’s Pioneer Days road show project, a one night musical program. She also befriends Bucky, Thor’s little brother, who is devoted to Shanny and Aunt Aunt Adabelle’s old bronco, Blastoff.
Though some people look at her funny, most people in Wolf Creek seem willing to like and accept Shanny—until she puts her foot in her mouth. And then she has to worry about Aunt Aunt Adabelle, who talks to dead Uncle Vic sometimes. And then there’s the beautiful and perfect Twyla, who clings to Thor, unobtrusively but nicely driving off all competition. But Shanny sticks it out, trying to do right and make amends when necessary, and along the way keeps a careful record of what she’s learning.
On our many camping trips in the West and Canada, I would always put my book down and observe when as we drove through some tiny town in Eastern Oregon or the Idaho Panhandle. I was fascinated by the small communities, often placed in the middle of enormous landscapes, and enjoyed imagining myself a member of one, knowing the same people through elementary school and as adults, sharing a history. The longest I spent in any one house as a child was five years, and even then I attended two different elementary schools. I envied the apparent simplicity of more permanent situations, particularly in their apparent epitome, the tiny rural town. (To be honest, I still fantasize about moving to one.) Even ghost towns, particularly the profoundly sad dying towns, filled me with such envy. Lael Littke’s Wolf Creek is one such town, and one of the charms Shanny on Her Own has held for me throughout the years. Read the rest of this entry »