“Days of Little Texas” by R.A. Nelson
Publication Date: September 14, 2010
Knopf Books for Children
Advance Review Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (****)
Ronald Earl, aka Little Texas, almost 16, has been on the road with his Aunt Wanda Joy, elderly Sugar Tom, and Certain Certain for nigh on six years, preaching the gospel and performing healings in a long succession of small Southern towns. Lately he feels a fraud, bedeviled by recurring dreams of being with a beautiful blond girl, naked. Sincere in his faith, he’s nevertheless beginning to doubt his work, his worthiness. Exhausted after a night’s work, he performs one last healing on a girl, Lucy, that feels different. As the days pass, he can’t stop thinking about her as she melds with the girl of his dreams. When a large, boisterous crowd in Mississippi cows him, he leaves the stage, unable to preach. Wanda Joy hatches a plan to get him back on track that will test his faith and may, if he’s able, defeat the evil that ruined her grandfather on the same site, years before. Are the women in Ronald’s life working for good, or ill? A substantial subtext about twisted souls ensnared by slavery leads to increasingly scary and disturbing events, culminating in a showdown with evil reminiscent of M. T. Anderson’s climactic battle in Thirsty (Candlewick, 1997). Chapters are brief, the pace is rapid, and the tension is high as Ronald wrestles with demons both temporal and spiritual to find his place in the world.
Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.com
I had a few trepidations about Days of Little Texas. It didn’t get a lot of publicity when it was first published in October of 2010, and the theme of a “paranormal romance” was already a worn out subject.
Days of Little Texas surprised me in the best way.
First, Ronald Earl, a.k.a Little Texas, had such a unique and powerful voice that I hadn’t seen in YA fiction in quite a while. He was honest, innocent, and had the purest of intentions on what he did with his ministry. He was a truly heartfelt individual and took on quite a bit of a responsibility by using his gift for spreading the Gospel.
Second, the paranormal aspect wasn’t the usual “weepy heroine falls head-over-heels in love with a ghost/zombie/vampire” etc., and the love story between Little Texas and Lucy was genuine and strong. I only wished more was said about Lucy’s past and why she was chosen to free the souls in the end.
It was an unexpected, but pleasant surprise to read Days of Little Texas and I congratulate the author on such a unique YA novel that has been overlooked for far too long.