The first of three YA fantasy books from debut novelist Allen introduces the magical coming-of-age story of Katrina Summer.
Katrina is 15 years old when her mother, Grace, unexpectedly dies of a heart attack, leaving Katrina in their North Carolina apartment. Abandoned by her father at birth, Katrina has seemingly nowhere to turn until her estranged paternal grandmother, Rose Summer, offers to step in as guardian. This means leaving behind her life in North Carolina for the quaint seaside town of Apollo Beach, Florida. As Apollo’s newest resident, she catches the eye of Alec, the boy next door. His companionship gives Katrina the glimmering hope of finding happiness again after her mother’s passing. But their budding romance makes her the target of local mean girls’ jealousy, while the town develops an unflagging interest in her every move. Katrina also learns that her grandmother is a wealthy local celebrity who exerts a mysterious influence over the community and local businesses. As part of her guardianship, Katrina’s grandmother takes it upon herself to educate Katrina on the branches of their family tree, a divine bloodline with origins in ancient Greece and legendary ties to the supernatural. The revelations come on the precipice of Katrina’s 16th birthday, which lands on the summer solstice, historically a significant seasonal event. Katrina learns that 16 is a threshold age when she becomes eligible to learn all of the Summer family secrets her mother worked hard to hide. But she’s shaken by a recurring series of dark visions that manifest as reality in Apollo Beach. Katrina finds herself torn between a desire to explore the origins of her newfound powers and the chance to be a normal teen who flirts and falls in love. These magical occurrences fold neatly into the story thanks to Allen’s natural dialogue and an emotionally accessible protagonist who easily shoulders the burden of entertaining the audience. Yet due to some late introductions, a few secondary characters—particularly villains meant to be feared—don’t seem to earn their significance. Likewise, Allen’s decision to favor Katrina’s character-building over plot development contributes to the novel’s somewhat meandering pace. However, unlike in many slow-burning narratives, the lack of denouement is rather satisfying since it manages to intriguingly pique interest in the series’ next chapter.
YA fans will be drawn to the blend of magic and mythology that takes the established teen-witch premise in new directions.