historical fiction · young adult · teen · Vietnam War · 1960s
“...adroitly weaves history and mystery into a coming-of-age tale. Relationships, feminism, civil protest, and respect are among the themes highlighted, though they aren’t explored too deeply. Even so, readers are likely to draw connections between current events and the political climate depicted in the book, and they’ll enjoy the unexpected revelation regarding Miss E.’s identity early on. It’s a polished debut with an inspiring protagonist.” —Publisher’s Weekly
After moving to California with her parents in 1967 and saying goodbye to her father as he leaves for Vietnam, Bets tries to settle into a small town routine. It doesn't take long before the town's most mysterious resident pushes Bets to reconsider how she feels about her mother, the war that has taken her father far away, and her own role in the events that show up in newspaper headlines and flash across her TV screen.
— scroll down to read book sample —
Shelf Unbound Notable Indie
Finalist IAN Book of the Year Award
“Miss E. is beautifully written, and the plot is brilliant. Herberger's historical background is spot on as his main character and her peers confront the reality of the conflict in Vietnam and the toll it takes on the families of those serving. This is an extraordinarily fine coming of age tale that held me enthralled and engaged until I finished the final page. Miss E. is a remarkable debut novel, and it's most highly recommended.” —Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite
“A poignant tale with its share of fast-paced action inspired by historical events... Herberger provides readers an inspiring young heroine... immediately endearing and appealing to readers as an intelligent, mature, and determined young student.” —Publisher’s Weekly BookLife Prize
“Herberger’s writing is heartfelt, imaginative and keeps you turning the pages.” —Corey Thornblad, Fairfax County Public Schools 2016 Outstanding Teacher of the Year
“I read Miss E. in one sitting! This compelling story will keep you reading... Truly original!” —Kathy Williams, Reading Specialist
“The characters unfold beautifully. They are complex, intriguing, and most of all, real.” —Sarah Milne, English Teacher
“Herberger writes deftly and convincingly in the voice of a 15-year-old.” —Serena Kessler, High School English Teacher
“I loved getting to know Bets and watching her evolve through her challenges in that tough time somewhere between childhood and adulthood.” —Krissy Ronan, High School Librarian
“Miss E. is an important book about relationships, self-discovery, and social justice. This novel is beautifully written and will leave you aching for a sequel.” —Tiffani Grimsley, English Teacher
“Miss E. went above & beyond my every expectation. It truly baffles me that this novel is not more well-known. I loved so much about this book that I'm not quite sure where to begin.” —Goodreads Reviewer
“I was sucked into the story from the very first sentence, and I finished the whole book in one afternoon.” —Goodreads Reviewer
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SAMPLE FROM MISS E.
Chapter 1: Diary
I promised Miss E. I would never tell anyone her story – and I’m not, really. But she didn’t say anything about not writing it down. As far as I’m concerned, a girl’s diary is pretty much the most private place someone could ever put something, so writing it here all but guarantees that no one will ever know what really happened to Miss E.
Some diaries stay private because they’re locked away in a nightstand or hidden under a mattress, but most of the time they’re private because who really has the time to read all the boring stuff that goes on in someone else’s life. And as far as boring lives go, mine had to be up there in the top ten, until we moved to California at least. So, there’s not much chance of someone prying into my private life.
Although I suppose someone could show an interest after I die.
Seems like people always become more interesting after they’re dead and gone, and others end up examining their letters and diaries and just about everything they wrote, trying to find out something about the person that they probably could have found out while they were living by just going up and asking them. But they didn’t. Miss E. sure stirred up a lot of attention for herself when she died. Folks probably wouldn’t have been half as interested in her if they knew she was alive and well, living on a farm north of San Francisco.
And besides, what I’m writing here isn’t really Miss E.’s story. It’s mine.
Chapter 2: Settling In
When you’re an army kid, you know about moving around. I was only fifteen when we moved to California, and that was already the fourth move of my short life. Born in Atlanta, Georgia; moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, age two; Amarillo, Texas, age six; Wichita, Kansas, age nine. I really only remember Texas and Kansas.
Texas – flat, dry, hot. I started school there, so maybe that’s what I remember the most. Big brick building, lots of noise, kids running around, playing tag, pulling pigtails. I don’t really remember any teacher names, which is strange because for a while they seem to become the most important people in your life. Had a friend, Jeanne Hawkins – still remember her name – that I wrote letters to for a while, but to a nine year old, writing a letter is way too much like a school assignment. So that friendship faded away along with my teachers’ names. Goodbye Texas.
Kansas – just as flat, just as dry, but thankfully not quite as hot. School was on base, so all the kids knew how friendships work for army kids. There’s no time to waste figuring each other out. If we took the five or six months most kids waste sizing each other up and deciding who they want to be friends with, we’d be gone before we said hello. Nope, there’s no new kid in a base school. Most are either just getting there or getting ready to leave, so no one stands out as new. You know most kids’ names by lunch, and figure out who your best friend will be by the end of the first day so you’ve got someone to walk home with.
California was different.
California – not flat, not dry, not hot.
California was blessedly cool for a kid who has spent her life thinking it was normal to have a sweat soaked T-shirt on a Saturday morning before the sun got high enough to peek above the roofs and trees. But the temperature was just about the only thing I felt good about when we finished that drive over the mountains and climbed out of our car.
We arrived in early July. My mother told me the move was planned that way so I would have time to settle in before I had to start school, but I knew it was really so my father could help with the unpacking before he had to report for duty. So far I’d been pretty lucky as far as army kids go. Dad had worked on base as a mechanic, making sure planes were well maintained, rebuilding an engine when it got cranky, and even helping the guys in the motor pool when they had a problem with a truck or a jeep that they couldn’t figure out themselves. He had a reputation for being able to fix anything, so when it was time for a new assignment, he could pretty much pick the place because everyone had heard of him and they all wanted him turning their nuts and bolts. At least that was how he explained it to me at the dinner table when he was giving me one of his speeches on hard work or reputation.
But like I said, California was different.
In 1967, every kid with a father in the military knew that Vietnam held the trump card. The days of picking where we wanted to move next were over. Uncle Sam was calling up all the boys eighteen and older to wear a helmet and carry a gun, and he wanted my Dad to keep their planes and trucks running. Our move to California wasn’t about settling in at a new base where my father would work each day and be home for dinner by five. My father would spend about a month at Oakland Army Base before heading off to Vietnam. Other than delaying a tearful goodbye another thirty days, my mother and I packing our lives off to Califor-nia was mostly about living close to my aunt and uncle and cousins while we were without my father. I’d never even met them before and only knew about them from hearing my mother complain about them at the dinner table, but we were losing my father for who knows how long, and family is family I suppose.
So I found myself carrying my things into a small rented house outside of Santa Rosa, California, and bringing them into my new room. Pretty much everything I could call my own fit into three boxes. Two were full of clothes and the third held my books, a few favorite toys, and some framed pictures. I hadn’t accumulated much over the last fifteen years. I dropped the boxes and turned in a circle to take in my new room. Four white walls, one window, one door, one closet, one bed, one desk. Even though we weren’t living on base, the room was totally army issue. My walk from the front door to my room hadn’t given me much hope for the rest of the house either.
My clothes hung in the closet and my books moved from the box to the desk, I left my room and found my parents facing each other in the kitchen. My mother looked tearful and my father had his shoulders shrugged and his hands spread apart in front of him. His mouth hung silently open, but his body said, “What can I do.” I’d watched my father fix our car countless times, knew it was his job to keep things running smoothly on base, and had lived in the army houses that he’d turned into comfortable homes through his creativity and hard work. Seeing him in the kitchen that day, I realized that he couldn’t fix everything.
When my parents noticed I’d entered the room, the scene quickly changed. My mother turned away from me and began moving things from the kitchen counter to the cupboards. My father’s what-can-I-do posture turned into a casual lean against the refrigerator, and his expression snapped into a smile.
“What d’ya think, Bets?” My mother always calls me by my given name, Elizabeth. That’s an old lady’s name. Friends opt for Bethy, which I’m fine with, but Dad’s name for me is the only one that ever feels right. Bets.
“It’s nice,” I lied and then nodded my head and shrugged my shoulders at the same time. Dad and I have always talked with our bodies more than our mouths. My shrug tells him how I really feel, but he knows my nod means I’ll make the best of this. Dad returns the expression. Nod. I know how you feel. Shrug. I wish I could fix this. My mother only heard my “It’s nice.” She’d composed herself and turned with a smile.
“Your father and I were talking about finding a restaurant in town tonight. Take a look around, maybe meet some of the neighbors. How does that sound?”