With Phoenix Revived, Judy McCluney has written a story about the trials faced by two teens trying to make their way in the world.  Although told in a fairly straightforward, realistic fashion, McCluney does apply a richly developed allusion to the Egyptian myth of the phoenix while also setting the story in Arizona.

Uprooted by her dad’s job in the Air Force, Sami has just moved from California to South Phoenix. More than anything, she wishes to fly away to a place of possibility where she hopes to work as a veterinarian. Unable to rely on her parents for monetary support to attend college, Sami feels like she is walking on a tightrope without a safety net.

After transferring to Kalima High School, Sami meets Robby Blake, another teen who is restricted by his parents, who want him to stay at home after high school and operate Blake Farms. A talented guitarist whose happy place is in music, Robby dreams of a career as a musician.

As both teens wonder if they will have to reject their hopes and plans to favor practicality, they deal with daily challenges: working part-time jobs while juggling school and home responsibilities, building relationships, and navigating social challenges like Mort, the arrogant school bully and his stance against immigrants.

McCluney adds other layers to her novel. With conflicts like Robby’s asthma, she is able to address air pollution and environmental concerns with big corporations who try to take over family farms. With a mental health thread, McCluney leads readers to discover the reason that Robby’s father is so against a career in music for his son. After all, parental precautions are often based in fear.

Ultimately, this is a book about turning one’s passion into a profession. Determined and resilient, Robby and Sami have potential to inspire adolescents to go after their dreams with hard work and persistent dedication.

  • Posted by Donna

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