A debut YA novel sees a bereaved teenager return to her hometown and discover her magical heritage.
Sixteen-year-old Emma is half white, half Hispanic. When her mother is murdered, Emma moves from Chicago to New Mexico to live with her estranged father. Emma’s dad is the sheriff of Redención (Redemption), a tiny farming town holding out against corporate land-grabbing. Emma misses her mom, and her feelings toward her dad flit between anger and affection. But Redención feels like home. Many of the people there remember her from when she was a 2-year-old. Moreover, there’s Navaho spirit magic in the town: a star magic that has passed to Emma from her mom. Emma learns from Miss Ruth, a Navajo healer. The teen also has visions and is carried off by spirits. Most important of all, Emma discovers she has the ability to shape and control natural forces. With magic, she could save the town. But she is angry—driven by grief and the need to find her mom’s killer. And she is conflicted—drawn to the local football jock, a boy she’s been warned to stay away from. Can Emma come to terms with her new life or will she and Redención fall? Bedard has an easy prose style, infused with a sense of place. From the moment Emma arrives, Redención comes to life—be it through the rampant snuffling of the local pet pig, Esther; the hushed backdrop of a Roman Catholic upbringing; or the villagers’ occasional utterances in Spanish. These last may prove mildly disorienting for monolingual English speakers yet Emma herself knows more than a little Spanish; for her, the effect is one of being encompassed. The author’s depictions of people are vivid. Emma is a mercurial teen—at times embracing, at times rejecting the changes in her life—and the townsfolk who befriend her are deftly developed. Away from Emma and her circle, this characterization trails off. (The antagonists, for example, are little more than ciphers.) But that merely adds to the sense that Emma shapes her own experiences. The plot, too, moves at her behest, bolstering her as a character. All told, teen readers should approve.
A richly grounded tale of growth and belonging.