Say A Prayer for the Youth of America Ellen Foster is the compelling story of a young girl who is thrust into reality at a very early age. Written by Kaye Gibbons, the novel is a documentary of the saga of growing up. It is a recurring theme, growing up, depicted through many events over the course of this girl^s childhood. This growing up theme is evident through the experiences she has, as well as the many hardships she faces. Ellen^s awkward situation of two dead parents forces her to lose her innocence at a young age, and mature much faster than any other person her age. This is shown through her in-depth observations about the world and people around her, such as ^He was a big wind up doll of a man.^ This metaphor depicts her father, a lazy drunk who dies early in the book, probably from alcohol poisoning. Her life with him is one of constant fear and hatred. She blames him for the death of her mother, who overdoses on heart medicine to escape from her life. His drinking habits take over his life, and Ellen is left at home alone, sometimes for days at a time, to fend for herself. This is only one of the many hardships she must face. After her father^s death, Ellen is forced to move from house to house. She is miserable in all of them, but they are still better than what she had to put up with before. When she finally does reach a house which she likes, her aunt Betsy kicks her out after the weekend, telling her that Ellen was only meant to visit for two days. The torment she receives is not limited to her father. Relatives like her aunt Nadine, who blames everything her daughter Dora does on Ellen, instead of paying her the attention and love she needs, toss her around like an Christmas fruitcake no one wants. These events, though somewhat exaggerated in Ellen^s life, are all a part of growing up. Unbearable parents, relatives you can^t stand, being betrayed by someone you care about, they are all part of life, and life lessons. Equally important in growing up are friendship, prejudice, and death, all of which are present in the childhood of Ellen Foster. Her friendship with a black girl named Starletta is a subject of much controversy. Not controversy with other people, but controversy within Ellen^s own mind. Her feelings towards her best friends are contorted by society^s acceptance of other races. This is a common thing among younger people. Not necessarily among races, but more along the lines of good kids versus bad kids. Society^s perception of who^s good and who^s bad really affects a child^s perception of who they should or shouldn^t be seen with. Ellen at the beginning of the book is somewhat ashamed of Starletta, because she eats dirt, and also feels sorry for her because she only has a one room house, and doesn^t even have an ^inside the house^ toilet. As the story progresses, Ellen^s opinions twist and turn until she reaches the conclusion ^If they could fight a war over how I^m supposed to think about her then I^m obligated to do it.^ This is evidence for her evolution as a person, or growing up. Her views of the world mature at a young age, as does she. Work is also an important part of growing up. Ellen gets her first taste of real manual labor when she moves in with her grandmother, who feels a deep resentment for Ellen, because she blames her and her father for Ellen^s mother^s death. She immediately puts Ellen to work in the cotton fields with Mavis and the rest of the workers. With the help of Mavis, she is able to quickly adapt and work just as well and as fast as anyone else. This adds to the speed of her maturing, and gives her time to think. This work also adds to one of the deepest and Ellen^s most profound line in the book, ^And all this time I thought I had the hardest row to hoe.^ This quotation shows her understanding of the life she has come to accept. She realizes now that although her life has been the pits, there is someone who could have had it worse off. Ellen^s fictional pre-adolescence, though much harsher, is essentially the same as that of any child. She experiences the same confusion and events as any other regular child, but to a much greater extent. Also, she is much more aware of her emotions, and is very capable of expressing them. All in all, her life really isn^t that different from any other, and is a metaphor for growing up.