A modern Gothic tale of fairies, fractured families, and healing.
Fifteen-year-old Alice's younger brother, Theo, will die without a heart transplant. Alice's never-married parents split just before Theo became ill, and her father has become distant, seemingly unconcerned about his son and unavailable to help them. When a heart is found, Alice's mother thrusts her into the care of her paternal grandmother, Nell, a strange, terse woman Alice doesn't remember. Nell lives alone outside a small English village in Darkling Wood, three acres of ancient trees she plans to cut down, but the townspeople are against the wood’s leveling. Then Alice encounters a girl her own age, Flo, who implores her to intervene: Darkling Wood is home to the fairies. Alice is a pragmatic, modern girl, but Flo insists that if Alice can truly believe in the fairies, then the wood—and, somehow, Theo, who is suffering complications—will survive. Interspersed through Alice's present-tense narration are letters from a young girl to her brother fighting in World War I. A great deal of family tragedy unfolds with gentle realism. Neither Alice nor Nell is a sentimental character. Both white, they’re beautifully drawn, and the pragmatic prose and completely modern language (except for the letters) ground the story. The fairies aren't covered in pixie dust here.
Carroll is becoming well-known in her native England; this book should win her American fans. (Fiction. 10-16)