Publishers Weekly Review
Set in 1950s small-town North Carolina and narrated by a "good" girl who gets pregnant, this novel would seem to be familiar--except that Oughton's (Music from a Place Called Half Moon) lyrical prose and perceptive characterizations revitalize the plot. The narrator is 15-year-old Welcome (she was named by her older sister, Evelyn Sue, who "wanted me to always know that, even though I was number three, I was certainly welcome"). Bright and unusually ambitious (she wants to be a pediatrician), she struggles with adolescent awkwardness, strict parents and her first heartbreak. On the rebound, she lets a boy she doesn't love have intercourse with her--just once--and she gets pregnant. Her family ships her off to her childless aunt and uncle, which gives Welcome a chance to ponder her future. The characters throughout are memorable; like Welcome, each uniquely combines ordinary vulnerability with unexpected stores of strength. For example, Evelyn Sue runs off to Hollywood in search of her beloved James Dean, but she returns with real wisdom and adult resolve. Mrs. Horn, neighbor to Welcome's aunt and uncle, survived WWII in a prisoner-of-war camp, feeding her infant twins on raw bird's eggs. The pacing is not always consistent; it's Welcome herself, not any inherent dramatic tension, that will hold readers. Ages 10-14. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Booklist Review
Gr. 6^-9. The oddly named Welcome Marie O'Neal is the product of a 1950s eastern North Carolina small town, a gossip-hungry place where a teenager who becomes pregnant is sent away "to boarding school" or "to visit family." Oughton takes readers back to a time before legalized abortion, when young women visited grimy, back-street houses and often fled in fear, choosing to raise their babies when faced with the reality of their choices. This is Welcome's story, but it is also the story of a family that supports and loves--and forgives--its own, a family that works. It's about a young woman growing up who makes the ultimate sacrifice and atones for it. And though the story takes place years ago, it's still relevant to teens today: it deals with making choices, looking to the future, and realizing that, though no family is truly perfect, some families are just right for new babies and teens. --Frances Bradburn