This is a wonderful book. I think it will resonate with many readers, who might relate to it even though the circumstances are unique.
Philip Pullman has a powerful gift. It convinces us to not only enter into the minds of his protagonists with sympathy, but to emerge actually caring about them. I really miss Ginny now, having finished the book. I try, in my imagination, to watch her grow up. I think she'll be brilliant, just like many of the readers who can relate to her and her step-brother.
As you begin reading the book, you're not told a whole lot; and I liked that. It made me more alert to cues in her thinking, watching her moods and the things that happen around her that she doesn't quite pay enough attention to.
On the other hand, the things she *does* notice are with the eyes of an artist, and one with a creative imagination. Readers who also like to draw and paint will find lots to like about the way Ginny thinks. It's a view of an artist's way, from an artist himself... and just like the best art, it moves something in us in a very subtle but profound way.
The book deals with feelings of isolation, which many of us encounter through race issues but everyone *could* understand, given a writer like Pullman. And then there's the matter of growing up. What happens when Ginny's secure world seems too small, but getting out of it is too scary? What happens when what she thinks she knows is not half of what's really there beneath her nose? Pullman makes her story a lot like our own story. We're hooked.
Her growing awareness of others' lives, her ability to move from a genuine and thoughtful sympathy to actual empathy - putting herself in their shoes, rather than looking at their shoes from her perspective, so to speak - is handled so well, I can't help but think we readers all benefit too.