I actually started to read this once before, set it down 20 pages in, and now, a year later, I picked it back up and loved it. I love the setting and the smokey, sepia tone of the writing. I love the characters, especially Natalie Minks, our 13-year old heroine, who wears overalls and has an affinity for all things mechanical. I love Old Tom Guyot, who's older than is possible and plays his tin and catgut guitar so even the devil would be jealous. And, what I really, really loved, is Miranda.
She's a friend of Natalie's, kind of. She wears dresses and is prim and kind of, well, girly, and Natalie is more annoyed than anything else when Miranda comes along with her and the male friends Natalie really prefers. But when things get sticky, get scary, get downright terrifying, Miranda is right there, brave andstanding strong alongside her tomboy friend. And I loved that! Because it's good to be a tomboy, but it's good to be a girly-girl, too, and that doesn't mean you aren't strong and steadfast and courageous. This isn't something that the books makes a big deal of; Natalie never waxes poetic about how she underestimated Miranda, she never even seems surprised by her, and I liked that, too. Its's a message that I really, really appreciated, and one that I think will be almost subliminal for the target audience.
Which I think is middle school, by the way.