A teenage runaway and a mysterious girl, the sole winter inhabitants of a lake island, share their painful histories and forge a connection in this YA paranormal romance.
It’s early October, and Hector, 17, decides to flee from his problems: trouble at school; episodes of vomiting and blackouts; self-cutting; and something he doesn’t talk about involving his uncle and guardian. Besides all that, Hector feels out of place in the world: “I’ve been half of something my whole life. Too Korean or too American. Too Black, or not Black enough.” His plan is to miss the last ferry from Lake Superior’s Isle Royale, deserted half the year, and stay. He’s not worried about searchers, because “helicopters and ships don’t look for runaway Black boys. Never in this lifetime.” By mid-May, when the island reopens, Hector will be 18 and free. But he discovers that Isle Royale has a year-round inhabitant: beautiful, white-blond Anda Selkirk, usually invisible. November is the month when Anda renews herself through death, crucially through mariners’ tragic fates in the lake’s storms. Strangely, Hector can see Anda, and he needs her help since he vastly underestimated the difficulties of surviving. They soon become close and romantic—but Anda struggles with a stronger and stronger pull to fulfill her grim purpose. Events build to a stormy confrontation with destiny and the future. Kang (Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, 2017, etc.) writes in the melodramatic, first-person, present-tense mode common to YA paranormal romance. The melodrama can be physical (“My stomach dives into the center of the earth”; “My heart punches my chest a million times a minute”) but can also turn more poetic, as when Anda says: “I am made of storms and corpses, of granite and paper-white birch.” The author is skillful enough to pull this off for readers who enjoy well-crafted sentences describing lovely, damaged, lonely teenagers: “Pain is so easy. It’s what we do best,” says Hector to Anda, who agrees. Ultimately, Kang offers some fresh ideas in this well-structured book. In addition, she brings a three-dimensional vividness to her characters.
An emotional and dramatic tale of an otherworldly relationship.