By Reilly McKnerneyCOLUMNIST
When the World Was Young takes place in post World War II America, focusing in on a not-so-average Wally Baker, short for Wallace, a young girl who loves comics and insects more than anything else. She prefers tending to her ant farm and The Museum of Natural History to tea parties and dolls, allowing her to fit in with fellow ant lover Ham Walker.
Ham is the son of Loretta, the black maid of her grandparents who practically raised Stella, Wally’s mom. Being a Baker is no easy task; the family has a long history of becoming doctors, including her grandfather, grandmother and own mother.
The novel takes the reader through the ups and downs of Wally’s life and how living in this time period influences her and causes her to see the beauty and the cruelty within the world. Whether it is racial injustice, racial acceptance, gender inequality, gender equality or simply love, she faces, conquers and occasionally stumbles on her way to becoming an adult.
The story picks up almost immediately, which is able to successfully hook the reader into continuing, and from there it only gains speed. The farther into life Wally gets the more she begins to experience things that should tear her down, but rather they build her up and shape her into who she will end up becoming.
She is a character filled with hope and an ability to see the importance within her own dreams, never letting others opinions get her down. She is constant. She disregards the people who get her down about her lifestyle choices and never falters in what she believes to be right and wrong. Wally is quite possibly one of the most confident and strong female characters in modern literature, and most definitely one of the few strong females of her time.
The novel is able to clue into the things going on in the world both on a small and large scale, speaking of Pearl Harbor and the cost of subway fares in New York going up in price.
Overall, the story captures the reader in every way, but it also encourages lessons that are still important to this day. I recommend this novel to anyone looking to learn about the injustices of the time period, but also optimistic enough to know that there were people more modern than their time.