Twelve-year-old Granite Flowerpetal finds an unusual way to raise the spirits of his family members and bring happiness and prosperity to his new hometown.
Gran, as he calls himself, isn’t looking forward to the move to Carousel. But he, his sister, Maisie, and their mother and father head there in hopes of steady work. Sadly, that’s not the case, and Eggers’ text obliquely reveals that the stress of financial instability creates an ongoing domestic conflict. Gran, meanwhile, attempts to find his place in a new school. He fixates on classmate Catalina Catalan, despite her less-than-friendly actions, and discovers that she’s involved in a quirky effort to protect the town from a malevolent force known as the Hollows. Characterization is slight. Maisie has a propensity for vomiting, Gran’s mother uses a wheelchair, and both Catalina and Gran are small for their ages. One character appears to be Latinx; all others read as white. Limited action and ponderous pronouncements further weaken the story’s appeal. Efforts at offbeat humor, such as the secondary character who blames all of the town’s problems on moose attacks, serve only to emphasize the overall bleakness of tone.
While the author’s belief in the importance of helping others and finding meaningful outlets for creativity are laudable, the dull and joyless vehicle he’s created to convey them likely won’t convince many readers. (Fiction. 10-12)