Growing up in Jolly, Texas is a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is no one ever really leaves town for good. The bad thing is no one ever really leaves town for good. This is also why twelve-year-old Cotton Dupree loves living here. He loves the predictability—everyone goes to the same schools, everyone looks forward to summer, and everyone plays it safe. Everyone except his best friend, Ivy Shoemaker, who’s everything he’s not—daring and bold and unpredictable.
Although inseparable since first grade, Cotton has heard that the summer between sixth grade and junior high is when friendships between boys and girls change and fall apart. When that summer arrives, an unsettled feeling begins fidgeting inside him.
After Ivy’s father leaves town for his annual gig working the carnival circuit, and Ivy’s other best friend, Jillian Abbott, leaves to spend her summer in Colorado, Cotton wants to find ways to make the summer memorable. But it’s Ivy who goads him into writing (and then doing) a list of dreams and dares together. Determined to do anything to keep their friendship solid, he reluctantly agrees.
Soon, Austin Stutts, a socially-awkward classmate, inches his way into their friendship, and Cotton learns a secret about Jillian’s trip. As the summer unfolds, Cotton and Ivy learn more about their friendship, themselves, and each other.
But the hardest thing they’ll learn is that even in Jolly, nothing stays the same forever.
The only home 13-year-old Hurricane McCullough has known is the tidy Spartan Royal Mansion trailer where she’s lived and traveled with her father, Ray—a trucker who delivers Twinkies and frozen TV dinners—and stepmom, Joanie. But during a pit-stop in Las Vegas, Joanie decides she’s tired of living on the road. She leaves Hurricane and Ray, hoping to be part of the changing America President Kennedy keeps talking about.
At that moment, delivering frozen foods and pastries suddenly feels less important, so Ray drives Hurricane four hundred miles past his next stop, finally hooking up the trailer at the Lucky Break Park ‘n’ Stay in Arlo, Texas.
After Hurricane, white as blooming cotton in the surrounding fields, meets her first real friend, 14-year-old Righteous Lamar, black as oil being pumped nearby, residents of Arlo find themselves face-to-face with long accepted racial tensions of their own. As the explosive summer of 1963 heats up, will the friendship between Hurricane and Righteous bring Arlo together—or tear it apart?
Living in Texas makes the Lone Star state one of my favorite settings for novels.