In Kaye’s (Iron Maidens, 2005) YA novel, a teenage girl runs away from her Northern California logger family and sets out on an odyssey that places her at the heart of the anti-logging community.
Jade Reynolds is fond of making up names for people in her life, such as “Driver Man,” “Apron Lady,” “Veroni-witch,” or “Yummy J.” She also refers to the “Here It Comes,” her cherished dreamlike state that’s somehow connected to trees (“Hyperspace daydreaming with a full-body peace that floods every cell”) and provides her with insights and small truths. She sets out on her journey after her uncle violently confronts an anti-logging protester, and, after catching a ride north, she ends up in Portland, Oregon, where her connection to nature blossoms as she attempts to follow in the footsteps of the “Garden Lady,” a guerrilla horticulturalist who secretly brightens the streets by planting flowers in the dead of night. It’s also revealed that a friend she calls “Peter,” from whom she’s gleaned much of her innate wisdom, is actually a tree in a “Family Circle” of redwoods near her home. While in Portland, she develops a crush on a dreamy guy named Justin (aka “Yummy J”), who convinces her to go to what he terms a “camp-tree thing.” This event turns out to be a tree-sitting protest in her hometown. In brilliantly onomatopoeic prose, Kaye shows how Jade comes to several epiphanies about her tree dreams while also coming to know the people that her family considers enemies. Throughout, the author relates the protagonist’s tale of redemption in delightfully sparse language, like a long poem in which small details matter, every word counts, and images are so cogent that they anchor readers in the fictive reality like tree roots: “Smoke comes out of his mouth in puffs with each word.”
A superbly written tale filled with realistic, engaging, and quirky characters.