Morning in a Different Place

Junior Library Guild Selection

Paterson Prize Honor Book


An Interracial Friendship in a Turbulent Time

Morning in a Different Place—the sequel to National Book Award finalist Where You Belong—tells the continuing story of a friendship between two thirteen-year-old girls in the Bronx in 1963. Why does this friendship get everyone so upset? Because Fiona is white and Yolanda is black and in the Bronx in the 1960s, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. The story unfolds during the weeks approaching the death of President John F. Kennedy and concludes on the day of the assassination. It is a time of change. The Civil Rights movement is challenging the status quo, and the racial mix of neighborhoods in the Bronx is changing in a way that many don’t welcome.

With social upheaval all around her, Fiona faces her own moral crossroads. Her family’s escape from her abusive, alcoholic father turns out to be as fleeting as his sobriety. At school, the popular girls ignore Fiona. Her family’s new start offers her the hope of finally being accepted by her peers. But her friendship with Yolanda is not something her new friends will tolerate, and so Fiona deceives both Yolanda and herself as she tries to make a life.

When Fiona realizes that her father is drinking again and her mother is in danger, she must decide whether the price of acceptance—her mother’s safety and her friendship with Yolanda—is one she’s willing to pay. Will she follow the example of Yolanda’s heroes—Civil Rights workers who stood up to fire hoses and police dogs—and find the courage to protect her mother and defend her friendship with Yolanda? For Fiona, that kind of courage may never come, not unless she sees what’s truly worth having.


Praise for Morning in a Different Place

“The stage is set for a classic moral battle, but the results are never didactic. McGuigan’s writing is spare and low-key, and her metaphors are acute: “When you’re not wanted somewhere,” she writes, “the feeling fills the place like a smell.” History buffs will appreciate the visceral reminder of how much Kennedy’s beliefs meant to the black community, and how devastating was his death.

—Daniel Kraus, Booklist, starred review


“McGuigan is as adept at evoking the class consciousness and racial politics of ’60s New York as she is the horrors of adolescence, including insecurity and helplessness. With the twin evils of domestic violence and President Kennedy’s assassination looming in the background, the author’s portrait of the chameleonic nature of teenage girls builds aggressively to a powerful finale.”



“McGuigan has created rich characters and tackles several uncomfortable social issues. Fiona’s voice reverberates through a range of emotional highs and lows in this story of friendship, loyalty, trust, racism, and coping that culminates with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Like Shana Burg’s A Thousand Never Evers, the novel offers insight into a turbulent era.”

—School Library Journal


Read an Excerpt


About the Authormary-ann-photo

Mary Ann McGuigan is the author of four novels for young adults. Her writing has garnered recognition from the Junior Library Guild and the National Book Foundation, among others, and she served on the panel of judges for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Her short fiction and essays, mainly for adults, appear in newspapers and literary journals.