In this YA fantasy, tragedy leads a young woman to a new life, unusual friends, and the truth about her recurring nightmares.
Eighteen-year-old Shanntal of Greyton isn’t sleeping well. Her nightmares involve pursuit through the woods, a red-eyed figure, and a craving for blood. She hopes that her best friend, 20-year-old Ginata, will provide relief. Her parents drop her off at her spunky friend’s home for a sleepover, and Ginata suggests playing with a Ouija board. When a spirit named Daray answers, the game quickly takes a dark turn. The Ouija planchette spells out “I-WILL-FIND-YOU,” and Shanntal assumes she’s the target. The next evening, Ginata’s parents drive Shanntal home only to find a dark, empty-looking residence. Inside, Shanntal’s parents and younger siblings have been killed—drained of blood. After a hospital stay, she moves in with Auntie Stephanie and Uncle Danier on Blackwood Island. Life is lonely there until she meets Jayce Fallon, who has “deep brown eyes” and a sympathetic ear. He takes her to Mystic Beach and introduces his own friends—Terran, Aiden, Makan, and Meriel—who happen to be the immortal avatars of earth, air, fire, and water. Shanntal is amazed but can’t help but wonder what she’s done to deserve such a remarkable crop of new friends. In her novel, Blyth (Stormy Saturday, 2015) teases the answer while crafting a tense romantic triangle with Jayce, the telepathic keeper of the elements; Daray, a vampire with ties to Shanntal’s past; and the protagonist, whose memories of childhood are hazy. While Jayce’s mental connection to Shanntal is intrusive and potentially domineering, he promises to behave himself and “give space whenever needed.” Their lives together could be perfect, and the author deftly conveys that first splash into love (“I felt lightheaded, and my lips burned hot”). But vampires, werewolves, and hoofed doomahorns complicate their situation. On Shanntal’s side, aside from elementals, are unicorns, fairies, and shape-shifters like Layla. Though Blyth takes readers through familiar genre terrain (like the Twilight series), Shanntal’s determination to be more than a damsel in distress is key to her appeal.
An optimistic supernatural tale with both fresh and familiar ingredients.
A little girl and her big brother make the most of a rainy day by using their imaginations to have fantastical adventures indoors.
Eight-year-old Braydon and his almost-5-year-old sister Brooklynn (pictured by illustrator Kerber as two blond white children) are stuck inside their home on Sammie Street on a rainy day. Piles of laundry and bedding in Braydon’s messy room turn into “Mount Clothia,” a mountain so high it reaches the stars. A blustery wind blows open a window and the children must escape a giant’s clutching hands (the drapes) in the “Flying Forest.” The basement laundry room becomes “Whispering Waterfalls,” home to trolls. The adventures and the full-bleed, brightly colored illustrations that depict them offer child-pleasing mild humor and suspense. Beyond encouraging young readers to cultivate creativity and use their imaginations—with no screens to distract them—Blyth (Escaped the Night, 2016) offers a message about the rewards of brother-sister bonding. Braydon’s initial reluctance to spend the day with Brooklynn, giving way to enjoyment as his sister eagerly follows along, rings true. The 8-year-old’s snippy reluctance to become the follower when Brooklynn comes up with her own adventure is overdone, but there is pleasing warmth in the resolution of the escapade and the siblings’ return to their everyday life.
Celebrates inventive play and offers a refreshingly positive message about sibling harmony.