Harry Potter in reverse. In a magical world, a young girl is judged to be merely ordinary, changing the course of her life forever.
When 12-year-old Abby Hale passes through the archway of the “Barrier of Fortitude” on the day of her Judging, nothing happens. Even when she repeats the effort over and over again: nada. Mr. Graidy, the ancient head of the Guild painfully concludes: “She has nothing. She is nothing. She’s an ord.” In the magical universe where Abby resides, “ords” are outcasts. Many are rejected by their families, friends and schools; some are either sold to or kidnapped by exploitative treasure hunters. But Abby is spared the worst since her gifted older sister is in service to the Department of Education and the sympathetic King Stephen. In her debut for children, Rubino-Bradway tells Abby’s tale in a first-person narration characterized by upbeat energy and action, treating readers to a jaunt filled with caring schoolmates, teachers, siblings and parents, as well as heartless enemies. While the author has crafted an allegory that successfully lampoons mindless prejudice and coupled it with a pitch to make do with one’s own limitations, the story eventually deteriorates into a jumble of repetitive escapades with characters who adjust to their circumstances but don’t evolve.
Promising, but not quite there yet. (Fantasy. 8-12)