A fantasy exploration of grief so overwhelming that it threatens to engulf its sufferer.
After their mother’s death, sadness threatens to swallow up Charlie Price's little sister, Imogen, and make her vanish the way his best friend, Frank Shin, did a few months earlier. Can mathlete Charlie’s logical thinking help save them both? Bereft and angry, Imogen opens a way to an alternate world where their mother is alive and ready to share their favorite memories. The catch is that Not-Mom feeds on these memories, taking them permanently. When the grieving person has no more memories to share, he or she becomes stuck in the alternate world—like Frank, who lost his grandmother. Luckily, Charlie pairs up with Elliott, a friend from the school grief group whose twin brother died a year earlier, to intervene. The two, along with a helpful dog, not only rescue Imogen and Frank, they vanquish the Echoes, the predatory reflections of the deceased. This ultimately hopeful story is narrated in the third person but in Charlie’s 12-year-old, often naïve (and ungrammatical) voice; it’s an oddly distancing effect, as if he, too, has lost his personhood. The tale is also full of sensible suggestions, mostly from the school counselor. These might be helpful for readers facing their own losses, but the fantasy world isn’t sturdy enough to support the adventure for most readers.
The therapeutic message overwhelms this well-meant debut. (Fantasy. 9-12)