Sometimes stories are a means of survival.
Unhappy children often like to pretend that their parents aren’t really their parents and that they secretly belong to a royal family. Finley is not a member of a royal family, but she’s staying with long-lost relatives for the summer, by a deep forest. Her mom and dad are “having problems” and “need some space to work it out.” Her father refuses to say why he stopped talking to his parents all those years ago, and clearly both house and family are full of secrets. Finley does her best to adjust and to get to know her relatives, and she begins writing fantasy stories about a deep forest and an orphan girl and a queen. Finley has a secret of her own. She’s living with depression and anxiety, and the stories she writes on paper help her defend herself against the painful stories in her head. Legrand has pulled off a difficult trick in this novel. She’s constructed a story-within-a-story fairy tale that’s utterly compelling but sounds as though it was written by an 11-year-old girl. Finley’s own story is even more compelling. Some of the family secrets are telegraphed too far in advance to be shocking, and some of the dialogue is too bluntly on-the-nose. But by the time the secrets are revealed, most readers will be too caught up in the story to stop reading.
A layered, thoughtful exploration. (Fiction. 8-12)