Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz is a middle-grade novel set is small-town America during the Iranian hostage crisis.
and her brother Rew live with their gran outside of town, near a forest
of birch and oak trees that they call the zebra forest. Both of their
parents are gone -- their mother left them when Annie was three years
old, and their father is dead, killed in a fight with an angry man, as
their gran has told them. One summer day, a man runs out of the forest
and into their house. He says he will not hurt anyone as long as they do
what he says. The man is an escaped convict from the nearby prison, and
Annie and her family are suddenly hostages in their own home. Even more
shocking is the realization that Gran knows the man: he is Annie and
Rew's father, the angry man, not the man who was killed. Rew is furious
with everyone, Gran descends into a deep, silent depression, but Annie
can't help being a little curious. After all, she's spent her whole life
wondering what her father was like.
This book does an excellent
job of creating and sustaining mood and tension. Setting it during the
Iranian hostage crisis worked thematically, though it was not necessary
to the story other than that. I felt the characterization was a little
uneven and the plot relied too much on a few big coincidences, but for a
first novel, I found the book as a whole impressive.
(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)