This YA debut stars a teen performing astral projection on the hunt for her missing mother.
Xitlali “Lali” Yavari of Browshire, Virginia, is about to turn 16. Traditionally, her mom bursts into her room at midnight on her birthday to throw confetti. This year, however, Lali’s mother has been gone for two months after leaving her husband and five children a note saying, “I love you all. I’m so sorry.” Making this night worse, Lali starts experiencing strange phenomena, like the sudden appearance and disappearance of a huge man with a scar on his face just outside her bedroom door. Next, she’s gripped by a kind of seizure. Upon recovering, Lali witnesses the large man threaten the life of a red-haired woman. And yet, they can’t see Lali. She assumes the events are a dream. At school, Lali meets a handsome new student named Kai Awana, whom she later sees talking with the scarred man. During another seizurelike episode—which allows her to go unseen by others—she hears Kai say, “She could be exactly what we need.” Lali starts wondering whether the bedtime stories her mother used to tell—about a girl called Astralis who could travel with her mind—weren’t just stories. Beginning a new YA series, debut author McPike crosses large family dynamics with tightly conceived superpowers to maximum effect. Lali’s siblings—Oxanna, Dixon, Ulyxses, and Salaxia—display distinct personalities that prove vital to the expanding narrative. McPike offers lively depictions of powers and their results, as when Lali has “projected”: “Everything was spinning and spotty, stained with a glowing red after-image.” Though Lali frequently notes that Kai is attractive, this tale is too hard-edged to be a romance. As the whereabouts of her mother take on increasing urgency, Lali and Kai bicker relentlessly. From these scenes comes the realization that “Caring about someone meant telling the truth; it meant letting that person in.” As a result, McPike succeeds in telling an emotionally jagged tale while setting up the rest of the series.
An intriguing story driven equally by plot, characters, and angst.