Fifteen year old Shell is the new boy in the village and quite a catch as far as the village girls are concerned, but he is focused on becoming a man in the wake of his father's terminal illness. Shell's entry into the village society does not go unnoticed by either adults or his peers. Mr. Gidharee, the most prominent resident in Cedar Grove, is especially interested in Shell as he sees him as a potential son-in-law. He presents his beautiful half-Indian daughter Rosalie and Shell is captivated.
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Rosalie, as most teenage girls who are confident in their beauty and wealth will do, spurns Shell in favor of the more affluent Joe. Brokenhearted he attends a fair in a neighboring district and meets the lovely Joan. They become fast friends which soon develops into a boyfriend/girlfriend type relationship.
It does not take very long for Rosalie to notice this and suddenly she sees Shell as desirable. She employs the help of her beloved father to woo Shell.
Shell is confused for a number of reasons. He is still a child but being forced into manhood by virtue of his father's terminal illness. He is also trying to deal with the turn his emotions are taking as is the norm for a teen his age, as he has not one girl but two who are seriously interested in him. He also has to cope with the attention from the wealthy landowner who happens to be the father of the girl he likes least. He has decisions to make and no matter what he does someone is going to be hurt. It might even be him.
Fate makes his decisions for him as, in a moment of weakness, he crosses a line with Rosalie Gidharee which inevitably seals his future. He still tries to pursue his relationship with Joan in spite of the fact that he has messed around with Rosalie. When he is attacked by Mr. Gidharee's dogs followed by a veiled threat from Gidharee he realizes that he is playing a very dangerous game which must now come to an end. It is at this time that his father also passes away and Mr. Gidharee plays a huge role in assisting with the funeral expenses. Shell ultimately chooses duty over love. He ceases communication with his beloved Joan and allows Mr. Gidharee to completely control his life from that point forward. The novel ends with wedding preparations being made for Shell and Rosalie as his future father-in-law reassures him that everything will be alright.
Best part of story, including ending:
This story speaks to any teen who has found themselves in the same predicament as Shell. It is interesting to see the inner workings of the adolescent psyche and how decisions are made from their perspective. The readers feel the reality of the weight of responsibility on his young shoulders and understand the reason the decisions are made as they are.
Best scene in story:
Shell remains in the potato field after being attacked and badly bitten by the dogs. He has time to reflect on all that has transpired in his life and for the first time we see him truly be himself. He is a scared fifteen year old with far too many adult decisions to make and he weeps.
Opinion about the main character:
Shell is a likeable character simply because he is human. At no point does he try to be other than who he is: a simple country teenage boy doing typical teenage things. Because of his humanness we are drawn into him as a character and can trust his experiences and empathize accordingly.