Three days before the end of sixth grade, a new girl shows up in Joni’s class. Chess (short for Francesca) is a California transplant to a farmstead near Joni’s in Vermont. Joni hopes they can be friends. Things start off well enough, but conflicting views about animal welfare bring troubles. Chess is a vegan who doesn’t think animals should be kept captive, even as pets. She is concerned about how animals feel, imposing her own human perceptions on them. Joni’s family runs a working farm, sells famous cheeses, and has more nuanced views. Joni herself loves horses.
Chess takes it upon herself to liberate some neighboring animals, almost leading to the death of one. She learns some difficult lessons about this, and Joni and the animals’ owner learn about friendship and forgiveness.
There is nothing objectionable in this book. At the same time, although presumably targeted at younger YA readers, this is a richly textured story that any age reader would appreciate and think about.