In Hill’s debut novel, a boy with autism makes friends with a sylph, who helps him communicate.
Luranna is a young sylph, an air elemental invisible to most humans, who’s learning from Alenya, an older sylph, how to do her job of delivering messages. Eddie is a bright 12-year-old boy with autism who’s nonverbal but able to read high school books about the weather, his favorite subject. Although Eddie’s father sometimes gets frustrated with him, particularly when he screams or flaps his hands, Eddie’s mother, grandmother and older sister, Pam, are more patient. One stormy night, Pam goes out to meet some friends for a few beers by the ocean. Unknown to anyone, Eddie is outside, viewing the weather from a nearby cliff, along with the invisible Luranna. After they both witness a terrible accident, Eddie needs Luranna’s assistance to communicate, and Luranna learns some lessons about trust, courage and friendship. In her debut novel, Hill, an instructor at North Shore Community College in Massachusetts, does a fine job of describing Eddie’s rapt obsessions and how others often fail to understand the autistic child’s point of view. In one scene, for example, Eddie, disengaged from a raucous Easter-egg hunt, gazes at a bit of candy wrapping and studies “the light and dark creases in the silver foil. The depth of the shadows, the reflected light at little peaks. It made him think of weather.” The sylph’s story, however, succeeds less well, as Luranna decides to keep a secret for flimsy reasons, seemingly only to postpone the story’s ending. A sylph gathering in Iceland initially sounds exciting, but it turns out to be an annual meeting with an agenda and stuffy speeches: “Your ability to deliver messages for us is critical to the whole process, and I want you to know how very much we appreciate the assistance of so many capable sylphs.” Pam, meanwhile, learns lessons that come at an awfully high cost, which the story brushes away too lightly.
A YA novel that’s sympathetic to those with autism but ultimately unsatisfying.