A girl’s unusual journey to self-realization: disturbing, enchanting, and wise.


An uncanny darkness engulfs a girl obsessed with hatred for her violent father in this debut YA novel.

This deeply resonant tale is one that will linger in the mind long after reading it. Ten-year-old Lily’s alcoholic, rage-filled father, Henry, first came into her life two years ago, showing up at Aunt Ruth’s mountain cabin where the girl; her sister, Rose; and their mother were living. Henry moved them from the forests of British Columbia to a suburb that “hung off the big city of Vancouver like a wart.” If Henry has any love to give, it is submerged in verbal and physical cruelty. Lily and her mother bear the brunt. Quiet, enigmatic Rose, Lily’s only comfort, keeps her head down. “Henry lived in the clench of my jaw and the curl of my fists,” says Lily, the novel’s remarkable first-person narrator. Her mother, consumed by mental illness and an untold sense of guilt—and trailed by an unsettling shadow that only Lily can see—won’t leave Henry. (The tragic past that binds them emerges with maximum, shocking effect over the course of the story.) Lily finds strength in her hatred. Her quest for enough power to get rid of Henry and get Mama back to the healing wildness of the forest leads her to an unsettling book of spells and a bleak path to retribution. Yet the benign influence of her astute aunt, the forest itself, and Calum, the mysterious boy Lily encounters there, offer a lighter path if she chooses to take it. Layers of meaning abound in Dunsmore’s expressive writing in this striking tale: “Summer crept along the landscape, poppies poked out of the ground, and bleeding hearts dripped with blossoms.” The crowd at a racetrack “was a tangle of spicy cologne and skunky armpits, musky horses, and manure so bitter I could taste it.” Caterpillars “wrapped like rings” around Calum’s fingers and “returned as butterflies to sleep in his hands.” How much of what happens is reality, magic, Lily’s imagination, or a mix of all three? Readers can decide.

A girl’s unusual journey to self-realization: disturbing, enchanting, and wise.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-5255-6532-8

Page Count: 139

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told.

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The 17-year-old son of a troubled rock star is determined to find his own way in life and love.

On the verge of adulthood, Blade Morrison wants to leave his father’s bad-boy reputation for drug-and-alcohol–induced antics and his sister’s edgy lifestyle behind. The death of his mother 10 years ago left them all without an anchor. Named for the black superhero, Blade shares his family’s connection to music but resents the paparazzi that prevent him from having an open relationship with the girl that he loves. However, there is one secret even Blade is unaware of, and when his sister reveals the truth of his heritage during a bitter fight, Blade is stunned. When he finally gains some measure of equilibrium, he decides to investigate, embarking on a search that will lead him to a small, remote village in Ghana. Along the way, he meets people with a sense of purpose, especially Joy, a young Ghanaian who helps him despite her suspicions of Americans. This rich novel in verse is full of the music that forms its core. In addition to Alexander and co-author Hess’ skilled use of language, references to classic rock songs abound. Secondary characters add texture to the story: does his girlfriend have real feelings for Blade? Is there more to his father than his inability to stay clean and sober? At the center is Blade, fully realized and achingly real in his pain and confusion.

A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told. (Verse fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-310-76183-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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