A 12-year-old with a sick brother chooses between supernaturally comforting certainty and painful reality.
Returning from Canada, Willow, her mother, and her 8-year-old, chronically ill brother, Wisp, nearly die in a car accident in rural Maine. Thank goodness for their rescuers, a friendly couple who bring them to a B&B in an isolated snowbound community. Willow’s mother panics about Wisp, whose extremely rare, undiagnosed condition means frequent hospitalizations and constant risk of death, but the snowstorm and the accident have left them without cellphones, car, or escape route. At least the people of tiny Kismet, Maine (all 173 of them), are helpful and kind—if also a little spooky. It’s as if the locals know what’s going to happen before it comes to pass. Can Willow cope with her mother’s obsessive overprotectiveness of Wisp, get home to Vermont, and learn Kismet’s strange secret? The townsfolk all appear to be white, like Willow and her family, and Franco-American—descended from early Acadians. Kismet’s not remotely believable (this infinitesimal, magically isolated village somehow supports both a hospital and a movie theater), and the magical rules are only slightly more credible. But the emotional truths Willow and her mother confront are wrenching and genuine, albeit not as meaningful as they’d be if Wisp were a fully developed character in his own right.
Works better as fable than as fantasy. (Fiction. 9-12)