A magical pen leads 12-year-old white Keira Harding on a dark fairy-tale adventure.
During a robbery at her home, Keira runs to her parents’ bedroom to find a phone and call for help. Instead, she finds a glowing antique pen and, in desperation, writes a list of what to do. To her amazement, everything on the list appears to come true. Keira keeps the pen (hiding her possession of it from her parents) and uses it to write a fairy tale for a story contest—in direct contravention of her mother’s seemingly unreasonable command that she not write any stories ever. When her story wins the contest and Keira, her mother, and Bella, Keira’s brown-skinned, black-haired best friend, go to France to stay for a week in the Château de Chenonceau as the prize, the girls are thrilled—at first. At the castle, strange events transpire, and Keira cannot help but notice that they have an eerie resemblance to the fairy tale she wrote. Keira’s first-person, present-tense narration, with a close eye to detail, oscillates between mature observations and lighthearted girl-stuff. It works. The story’s overarching theme of the power of words is timely and poignant—but the book’s cover art imparts a clichéd Disney-esque look that may turn off more serious readers.
A smart, peppery, action-packed plot teams up with playful, astute characters. (Fantasy. 9-12)