Devil on My Heels

Devil on My Heels

Dela­corte, 2004

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Please check your local library or used book­seller for a print copy of this book.


It’s 1959 in Benev­o­lence, Flori­da, and life is as sweet as a Valen­cia orange for fif­teen-year-old Dove Alder­man. Whether she’s sip­ping cher­ry Cokes with her girl­friends and lis­ten­ing to the Ever­ly Broth­ers, eat­ing key lime pie made by her house­keep­er, Delia, or cruis­ing around town with the coolest boy in school in his sil­ver-blue T‑bird con­vert­ible, Dove’s days are as smooth and warm as the soft sand in her father’s orange groves.

But there’s trou­ble brew­ing among the local migrant work­ers. Mys­te­ri­ous fires have bro­ken out, and rumors are spread­ing that dis­grun­tled pick­ers are to blame. Amid this sim­mer­ing con­flict comes a shock­ing rev­e­la­tion about the ear­li­er death of Deli­a’s hus­band. Sud­den­ly, black and white become a mud­dy shade of gray, and whis­pers of the Klan drift through the South­ern air like sighs. Hop­ing to get to the bot­tom of the con­tro­ver­sies, Dove begins to ques­tion the priv­i­leged life she’s always known … and in the process, uncov­ers painful secrets and dan­ger­ous truths.


  • A New York Pub­lic Library Book for the Teen Age
  • A Chil­dren’s Book Committee/ Bank Street Col­lege Best Chil­dren’s Book of the Year (starred)
  • Sequoy­ah Young Adult Book Award Mas­ter List, 2006–2007
  • Heart­land Award for Excel­lence in Young Adult Lit­er­a­ture Final­ist, 2006
  • South Car­oli­na Young Adult Book Award Nom­i­nee, 2006–2007
  • Vol­un­teer State Book Award Nom­i­nee, 2006–2007
  • Mis­souri Gate­way Read­ers Award Nom­i­nee, 2006–2007


” …  engross­ing … McDon­ald pro­vides a grit­ty pic­ture of the rules that dic­tate Dove’s world. The sus­pense stays taut as Dove begins to uncov­er the mys­tery, and then events esca­late to a blaze.” (Pub­lish­ers Week­ly)

“The writ­ing is excel­lent and the sto­ry believ­able. This nov­el will pro­vide pow­er­ful sup­ple­men­tary read­ing for stud­ies of racism.” (VOYA, 5 Q 4P)

“McDonald’s lan­guage is at times as intox­i­cat­ing as the scent of the orange groves she depicts, her char­ac­ters are rich and ful­ly devel­oped, and her plot pac­ing flaw­less­ly match­es the events she’s nar­rat­ing.” (The Bul­letin of the Cen­ter for Chil­dren’s Books)

“McDon­ald has writ­ten a grip­ping page-turn­er that digs deeply into the class strug­gles of the 1960s. And she has cre­at­ed the best kind of char­ac­ter — not a hero, but one who ends up doing the hero­ic, if painful, thing.” (The San Diego Union-Tri­bune)

“Books on top of books spill forth from pub­lish­ing hous­es. So many that it’s some­times dif­fi­cult to keep up with what’s hot, what’s not, what’s new and what’s what in the nev­er-end­ing mound. So it’s always a spe­cial plea­sure to unearth a book that is a real gem, like find­ing a rare stone in a pile of rocks. Such is the case with Dev­il On My Heels, by Joyce McDon­ald.” (Detroit Free Press)

“This is a pow­er­ful nov­el with strong char­ac­ter devel­op­ment and vivid descrip­tions. Through Dove’s eyes, read­ers see the South before the Civ­il Rights Move­ment came to the fore­front. High­ly rec­om­mend­ed for read­ers in mid­dle and high school.” (Kli­att)

“Dove’s naiveté and deter­mi­na­tion are cap­tured beau­ti­ful­ly in this nov­el of the South in the time after World War II but before the civ­il rights move­ment. Issues such as racial prej­u­dice and cen­sor­ship are pre­sent­ed in a man­ner both time­ly and time­less, open­ing dis­cus­sion and com­par­isons to our lives today.” (

” … sus­pense­ful … this well-writ­ten sto­ry con­veys the sim­mer­ing racial hatred and big­otry of the times … This is cer­tain­ly a page turn­er and it will give read­ers insight into a dif­fi­cult and shame­ful part of Amer­i­can his­to­ry.” (School Library Jour­nal)

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