In this seriously green adventure novel, a teenage girl discovers a secret power that will help her family and the environment.
Zera Green just wants to go home. Nonny, her favorite relative since her parents died, gifts Zera an heirloom terrarium for her birthday, and Zera soon hears voices in her sleep. When her uncle and guardian is offered a prestigious job in California as a biochemical engineer, she’s allowed to move to Colorado with her beloved Nonny. Aided by the hippie Hattie, her son Ben, and Hattie’s Native American grandmother, Zera realizes that the voices she hears aren’t just a dream: They’re coming from plants, and Zera has the ability to communicate with them. While she discovers her special power, her uncle in California comes face to face with some genetic mutations he invented but never meant to come to life. Yet before he can sever his contract with the new company, he’s kidnapped, and there’s more than one party interested in the mutant plants. In a dramatic confrontation, Zera and her new plant-communicating powers race to help her uncle. The adults in her life may have been keeping secrets, but Zera is determined to let the truth shine for the good of Mother Earth and the love of her family. With her teenage quirks, Zera is a lovable heroine in an AC/DC T-shirt, yet the adults end up telling the bulk of the story. The narration jumps between Zera’s experience and her uncle’s, and even when Zera is present, the adults do most of the talking. They have a lot to share, and the botany and myths the story incorporates are certainly compelling, but readers will most likely be craving more Zera on the page, especially regarding the crush she develops on Ben. The futuristic setting includes plenty of run-of-the-mill inventions—e.g., holograms and video phones—but the genetically modified plants won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
An ambitious sci-fi novel that will charm eco-champions, though voracious YA fans might want more from the characters.