This story is about the feelings and thoughts of a young girl roughly thrown into grown-up life when her sweetheart and playmates leave for World War One. Rilla-my-Rilla is a bright young soon-to-be-15 girl whose mind is filled mainly with parties and fun, worrying her parents about her lack of ambition.
As she dances blissfully at her first ever grown-up party, a man comes and informs the whole party that the war has broken out.
Rilla's brother Jem and friend Jeremy promptly enlist and go first to a training camp and then overseas to France, leaving the ladies and girls of the family to comfort each other in their absence. Walter, Rilla's other brother, doesn't enlist, hiding his cowardice behind his recent illness.
The war continues, bringing Rilla to raise a war orphan, to arrange a war wedding, to organize the Red Cross and to get kissed by her crush, Kenneth Ford, before he leaves for France. She promises “not to kiss anyone until he comes back”. Their budding feelings for each other flourish in their first timid and then passionate correspondence.
Walter finds the courage to enlist, making Rilla very proud. Soon after his departure the mail brings terrible news – Walter has been killed in action at Courcelette. His final words, written in the minutes before the last dawn he ever saw, will bring tears to any reader's eyes. It is as if Walter's soul traveled in that envelope to say his final goodbye to his best friend and little sister Rilla.
The war leaves more and more wounds on people's hearts as casualty lists bring more and more news of “missing”, “wounded” or “dead”. Rilla's family suffer several terrible weeks after Jem's name appears on the “wounded and missing” list.
At long last, the war is over. Boys went to fight and men return. Jem, Jeremy and Shirley (another one of Rilla's brothers) return home, yet Walter's black curls will not feel the Canadian breeze again. Still, Life goes on.
On the last page of the book, Ken, with the echo of the war in his eyes, asks the matured Rilla if “it's Rilla MY Rilla?” And the only part of Rilla which is still childish – her almost-forgotten lisp – tells him “Yeth!”
Best part of story, including ending:
This story made me smile through my tears.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is the part where Rilla gets the letter from her favorite brother Walter (who is already dead) and reads it in their favorite spot under the tree.
Opinion about the main character:
Rilla is plucky yet sensitive, she walks the path from childhood to womanhood with vigorous steps, but she doesn't get hardened by it.