A girl whose skin can’t tolerate sunlight finds a magical ice world.
Twelve-year-old Jess’ skin burns from exposure to sunlight. Transfers between her house (blinds drawn) and Mum’s car (tinted windows) require goggles, gloves, and “Full Hat”: “a long white hood that masked the whole of Jess’s face and neck.” Tired of her cramped, constricted life full of hospital visits and empty of friends (the complete friendlessness feels narratively contrived), Jess sneaks out at night—and steps from her muggy town into a frigid magical landscape. Everything’s made of ice, including Owen, a boy her age. Jess returns night after night to run free under the sunless, “mottled twilit heaven.” For a while, it seems safe. Owen shares key traits with Davey, an unconscious, hospitalized boy to whom Jess reads her stories when she’s at the hospital. The Owen-Davey connection is gently mystical throughout. Less gentle is a knot the text ties around Jess, involving brutal self-sacrifice and a magical cure for her unnamed condition. She gets agency, sort of, but the narrative sets her up: She faces a devastating final choice that isn’t free at all and that’s built on troubling gender and disability frameworks. Jess, Owen, and Davey are white; Middle Easterners and Indigenous people are used in Jess’ stories as supposedly exotic flavor, while Africa is mentioned as a place with animals.
Disability as vehicle, with bonus self-deprivation. (Fantasy. 8-12)