"McHargue (“Miss?”, 2013) taps into dreamscapes with their myth/dream logic very effectively in this entertaining novel."– Kirkus Reviews
With a world in flux, a teenage girl looks for answers from quarreling deities in this YA fantasy sequel.
Book I of the Waterwight series takes place a few years after The Event, a cataclysmic natural disaster that left strange effects in its wake, such as people and animals changing forms. Celeste Araia Nolan, about 14, discovers that she can fly; with help from often dreamlike figures (like Orville, a talking, winged Francophone frog), she saves a village of children. In Book II, moments after healing a toxic ocean, Celeste finds herself transformed into a dove. Two black ravens escort her into the clouds and to the old and tired god Odin, who wants her help to investigate what’s happening below and report back. Meanwhile, stragglers—some human, some distinctly odd—join the villagers, whose transformations and special powers are fluctuating. They face a new danger, according to Noor, a giant dragonfly, thanks to a dispute between Odin and his brother Kumugwe, the sea god. Events converge underwater when Celeste visits Kumugwe after escaping from Odin. She hopes to find her real parents. So do two sisters with a complicated history (one was rescued and raised by Kumugwe) who go in search of their scientist parents and their undersea lab. A great wrong must be righted in this hunt for the truth. McHargue (Hunt for Red Meat, 2017, etc.) again effectively offers images from dreamscape and myth in this intriguing follow-up novel. Though there are some standard YA tropes—post-apocalypse; teenage girl with special powers—the author goes beyond the expected with her original, striking characters. Merts, for example, has three heads atop a two-armed body; speaks only in haiku; and moves through the trees via hair braided into a long, prehensile whip. The plot is fast-moving, with action, danger, emotion, and moral choices; beneath all of this is a subtle environmental message embodied in the two scientists’ meddling with nature. Given her complicated narratives, McHargue could have helped readers with a prefatory summary of Book I, although she does provide backstory in the exposition.
Imaginative characters that powerfully tap into myth.
A novella about a lustful, wayward young man who finds a cursed rabbit’s foot.
Aeron McCloud is a charismatic orphan who’s looking forward to his upcoming 17th birthday party. His girlfriend, Jade, is the new girl at school who draws the attention of every man she passes. Bucky, Aeron’s best friend, is a nerdy, levelheaded boy who balances out Aeron’s brash machismo. One day, while preparing to go hunting with Bucky, Aeron finds a dirty, old rabbit’s foot that belonged to his grandfather. The foot proves to be a peculiar version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ring of power; Aeron obsessively carries it with him, and everyone who sees it is drawn to it. He soon realizes that the foot grants his wishes, brings him good luck, and gives him an unrelenting virility. Every woman Aeron encounters is inexorably attracted to the rabbit’s foot that he carries in his pocket, including Jade, who won’t sleep with him, despite his pleas. But as he begins to rely on the foot’s power too heavily, he realizes that it exerts a profound influence over him, and that he may be involved in something more dangerous than he first supposed. The novel gradually evolves into a warning against Aeron’s lecherous impulses. McHargue (Hunt for Red Meat: Love Stories, 2017, etc.) returns with an unusual tale of adolescent hormones run amok. At less than 100 pages, the book moves briskly, packed with plot and limited to a small cast of characters. The author writes from a second-person perspective (“It’s not your fault you were born with good looks on a bad day”)—a bold choice that makes the narrative more engaging, but one that may alienate some readers. Aeron is a supremely unlikable character (by design), and it’s rarely enjoyable to experience the story from his perspective, especially as he spends most of it in a state of arousal, cooking up immature sexual fantasies. Still, readers who enjoy tales that blend the spooky and the scandalous may find something worthwhile in this quick, easy novel.
A fast-paced tale with creepy and slightly sleazy elements.
In this YA adventure, a girl orphaned by global cataclysm searches for a new home, encountering talking animals and discovering she possesses special powers.
It’s been three or four years since The Event, a huge natural disaster with unnatural consequences that no one wants to talk about, including the adults at the orphanage where Celeste Araia Nolan, about 14, now lives. After a strange dream, Celeste decides to run away; in her journey, she meets helpful talking cats and dogs and the dangerous Shifter, an evil being who can take different forms. She also discovers an amazing ability: she can defy gravity, first with leaps and bounds, then by actually flying. From a stony-visaged mountain she calls Old Man Massive, Celeste learns she “must find the key to stopping the advance of the big water” lying southward. This is no normal ocean; it’s pink, gelatinous, reeking, destructive, and still spreading. Celeste flies across, getting a boost from Orville, a talking, winged, French-speaking frog who spoke to her in dreams. On the other side lies a village of children, survivors who have also developed strange powers, controlled by a mysterious Overleader, who punishes rule breakers. As Celeste works to find the key and save her new friends, she will face dangerous tests of her courage and resolve. McHargue (“Miss?”, 2013) taps into dreamscapes with their myth/dream logic very effectively in this entertaining novel. The section where Celeste gets trapped in a seductive fantasy castle—her parents alive, only her favorite foods on the table, every room full of toys and games—is powerfully spooky, reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. Post-apocalyptic YA fiction can be unrelentingly grim, but McHargue brings wit and warmth to this account as well as psychological insights, particularly in developing the Overleader’s character. There’s perhaps too much back and forth from the village to the mountain (Celeste begins to seem like a commuter flight), but the novel’s charms overcome this defect. Readers should want to know what happens next in the Waterwight world.
Striking dreamscapes make this tale about a heroine who can fly a fine first outing in a planned series.