Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis is sort of like the finding grandparents books I wrote about recently. However, Octavia and Talitha have always known their chain-smoking, stiletto wearing grandmother. The discovery in this book is her incredible past/story as a WWII era WAC. And her incredible past/story as a WWII era WAC is even more incredible because she's African American, and she was serving in a segregated Women's Army Corps.
Mare's War is structured around a road trip. Octavia and Talitha are stuck driving cross-country with their 80-year-old grandmother who is headed for a family reunion. Marey Lee Boylen is fond of wigs, push-up bras, and stiletto heels. We get short sections involving the road trip in which Marey Lee Boylen (Mare to both friends and granddaughters) is quite a sophisticated, well spoken woman of the world. She's very knowledgeable about black history, particularly as it relates to the parts of the U.S. they're traveling through, and she appears to be quite capable of paying for the nice hotels where she likes to stay. These sections are told from the point of view of Octavia, who I believe, is around 15 years old. (Her sister Talitha is older, not in college yet, but old enough to drive.)
These sections alternate with longer, historical sections in which the 16 to 17-year-old Mare is the first person narrator. She tells of her rough life in Alabama, how she escaped it by joining the service, and her experiences while in that service. In these sections, Mare speaks in the voice of a very, rural, inexperienced rural girl. A rube, to be blunt. She sounds nothing like the mature Mare. That totally works. To a great extent this book is about how young Mare becomes very mature Mare.
Interesting aspect of this book is that we have two YA worlds, Octavia and Talitha's contemporary world and Mare's WWII era world. Octavia and Talitha's YA life is bland and dull compared to their grandmother's. And that works.
I could say more about characters--the sister issues, is Mare like her mother, but I have less than three hours left for reading. Allez!!!
Disclosure: I've "known" Tanita for years as bloggers. She has been a frequent commenter here, and I've done the same at the blog she maintains with Sarah Stevenson, Finding Wonderland. (Can't figure out how to comment at her personal blog.) I read a library copy of Mare's War.
By the way, my computer guy was so intrigued when he heard about the historical subject of this book that he's planning to research it this evening.