Review: Above World by Jenn Reese

 

Title: Above World

Author: Jenn Reece

Publisher: Candlewick

ISBN: 978-0763654177

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Thirteen-year-old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean with the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting Tides. But after centuries spent hidden from the Above World, her colony’s survival is in doubt. The Kampii’s breathing necklaces are failing, but the elders are unwilling to venture above water to seek answers. Only headstrong Aluna and her friend Hoku are stubborn and bold enough to face the terrors of land to search for way to save their people.

But can Aluna’s warrior spirit and Hoku’s tech-savvy keep them safe? Set in a world where overcrowding has led humans to adapt—growing tails to live under the ocean or wings to live on mountains—here is a ride through a future where greed and cruelty have gone unchecked, but the loyalty of friends remains true.

Review:

After reading Dark Life by Kat Falls, I became fascinated by the idea of living in the ocean.  When I saw Above World by Jenn Reese, I was chomping at the bit to read it.  In this Middle Grade adventure, Aluna, a girl who lives in the ocean, must venture Above World to discover why the technology that allows her people to breathe underwater is failing.  I loved the spunky Aluna, and I also thought that her best friend, Hoku, was a wonderful character, too.  Both of them have to deal with very frightening situations, and as they face down death time and again, the thought of saving their people gives them the courage to continue on their journey. 

When Aluna finds the body of one of her friends, she discovers that the elders are keeping a secret from the residents of her city – the breathing tech that allows the Kampii to live underwater is failing.  Each Kampii has a bio-tech breathing necklace that keeps them from drowning.  Several of the necklaces ceased functioning, and the elders, including Aluna’s father, have quickly covered up the resulting deaths, not wanting to start a panic.  Instead of trying to discover why the necklaces are starting to fail, the elders are firmly denying that there is a problem.  The Kampii in her city have kept themselves hidden from the Above World for generations, and they don’t want to have anything to do with the surface world.  Aluna runs away from home, determined to save her people.

I loved the world building in this post-apocalyptic adventure.  As the population swelled and the available land was consumed by growing numbers of people, new environments were exploited with the help of bio-technology.  The Kampii, who are like mermaids, were allowed to live under the water with their necklaces.  Centaurs were engineered to live in the desert, and Aviars were given wings so they could live on top of mountains.  Disease swept through the human population, and chaos followed.  Now the remaining life forms are at war, battling for control of the old technology.

Aluna is a strong, determined protagonist, and I liked her a lot.  She is impulsive and stubborn, and these flaws work to get her out of many dicey situations.  She isn’t able to give up, and and she can’t accept failure.  That’s just not an option for her.  The thought of quitting never occurs to her, even when she is standing up to very scary enemies that would have had me running, screaming, in the opposite direction.  She is also self-reliant, which almost gets her, as well as her friends, killed.

I also loved the pacing of this novel.  The reader is never given the opportunity to become bored.  Aluna and Hoku meet one challenge after another, in rapid succession.  They barely have a chance to catch their breath before they are thrown into danger again, which made it difficult to  put the book down.  Their race against time to save their people from drowning kept me on the edge of my seat.  Both Aluna and Hoku had some major sacrifices to make, and they never hesitated to do whatever was necessary to save the Kampii.  I completely bought that these two young kids could save their underwater city.  Aluna is fierce and Hoku is clever, and together they make one heck of a team.  I loved their interaction, and how they complimented each other.  Where one was weak, the other was strong.

I can hardly wait to read Aluna and Hoku’s next adventure.  Above World has a satisfying conclusion, and left me content with the thought that they had saved the world, for the time being, at least.  There isn’t a huge, disappointing cliffhanger, just the sense that there are more conflicts to resolve in the near future.  I hate cliffhanger endings, so this conclusion worked for me.  I wasn’t all twitchy at the thought of Aluna and Hoku, frozen in time, facing an early demise, until the release of the next book.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Review: Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler

 

Title: Princess of the Wild Swans

Author: Diane Zahler

Publisher: Harper Collins

ISBN: 978-0062004925

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Princess Meriel’s brothers have been cursed. A terrible enchantment–cast by their conniving new stepmother–has transformed the handsome princes into swans. They now swim forlornly on a beautiful heart-shaped lake that lies just beyond the castle walls.

Meriel will do whatever it takes to rescue her beloved brothers. But she must act quickly. If Heart Lake freezes, her brothers will be forced to fly south or perish.

With help from her newfound friends Riona and Liam–a pretty half-witch and her clever brother–Meriel vows to finish a seemingly impossible task. If she completes it, her brothers may be saved.

But if she fails . . . all will be lost.

Review:

I read and enjoyed The Thirteenth Princess, so I was curious to see if I would like Princess of the Wild Swans as well.  The fairy tale that this book is based on has never been a favorite, and I wondered how I would feel about Diane Zahler’s reimagined version.  I liked it!  A lot!  The characters, once again, are what made the story, as well as the urgency of Meriel’s task.  If she doesn’t find a way to save her brothers soon, winter will set in and they will have to fly to a warmer climate.  Since it is autumn, that doesn’t leave her much time to come up with a solution!  To make matters worse, there isn’t anyone for her to confide in, because everyone seems to have succumbed to the evil Lady Orianna’s enchantments.

Diane Zahler’s princess protagonists make these stories for me.  They are kind and concerned, and though they might be slightly spoiled, when the chips are down and danger beckons, they will do anything to save the people they love.  Though she is frightened and confused, Meriel quickly finds the determination to save her brothers.  She knows that something terrible has happened to them – they all just disappeared, after all – and she is going to figure out where they all went.  With her father bewitched by her new, beautiful stepmother, she has no adult to turn to.  After chance encounter with Riona, her brother Cullan’s girlfriend, Meriel discovers some equally determined allies.  Both Riona and her brother, Liam, will do anything to help Meriel.  They know that the new queen is evil, and they fear what will happen to the kingdom if she triumphs in her evil deeds.

Just when Meriel is ready to give up, the townsfolk provide assistance to keep her moving doggedly forward.  Hers is a terrible task, one that she isn’t prepared to tackle, but with help from her friends and her subjects, she finds the resolution and the courage to get the job done.  Meriel matures and gains confidence in her ability to save her family, and as she discovers an impressive inner strength, she makes things happen.  She knows that if she fails, her brothers will remain swans forever, and that is all of the motivation she needs to find a way around every obstacle that springs up in her path.  Her brothers, and even her father, may have treated her like a helpless child, but Meriel will show them all that she is more than capable of taking care of herself, and them as well!  Even though each road block was more overwhelming than the last, and Meriel was overcome with self-doubt, she continued to do everything possible to save her brothers.

Diane Zahler’s writing is reminiscent of Patricia McKillip and Robin McKinley, two of my favorite fantasy authors, so it’s no surprise that I am enjoying her books as well.  I just purchased A True Princess ($5.99 for my Kindle – WIN!).  She has, in fact, been moved to my auto-buy list.  I can hardly wait to see what other adventures she has in store for her very relatable and likeable characters.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by the author

 

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Interview with Jenn Reese, Author of Above World

Jenn Reese is the author of Above World, a middle-grade adventure about a girl desperate to save her underwater home.  Jenn stopped by the virtual offices to discuss her debut book.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Jenn Reese] I’m a writer, martial artist, and geek. I’m an unapologetic lover of heroics and happy endings, and of being the biggest goofball I can be.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about your book, Above World?

[Jenn Reese] Above World is an adventure story set in the far future, after humans have bioengineered themselves into mythological creatures in order to live in harsh climates. Some live in the oceans and have mermaid tails, some live high in the mountains and have wings, and some live in the deserts and have the bodies of horses, like centaurs. The story follows a girl warrior, Aluna, and her tech-obsessed friend, Hoku, as they try to figure out why the technology that allows their people to breathe underwater is starting to fail. During their journey to "the Above World," Aluna and Hoku encounter other races and discover a growing danger that threatens everyone.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Jenn Reese] I was trying to come up with an idea for a short story, some sort of adventure in space. I asked myself what sort of person might make a good space captain, and the answer came to me right away: a mermaid! That’s how I got the idea of combining mythology with science fiction. I also knew I wanted a girl fighter as a main character. I love martial arts and one of my life goals is to inspire kids — girls especially — to fall in love with martial arts, too. Months of brainstorming and filling notebooks with ideas followed.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

[Jenn Reese] I found almost every aspect challenging! If I had to pick, though, I’d say solidifying the book’s tone. The first draft was all over the place, more of an exploration of ideas than a coherent whole. Then I got hooked on the animated TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender and a light bulb went off. The show had the perfect mix of adventure, humor, and drama — exactly the tone I wanted for my story. During subsequent drafts, I tried to keep Avatar in mind as a touchstone. It really helped me hone my vision and make the right decisions about the book.

[Manga Maniac Café] Name three things Aluna would miss most about her ocean home during her adventures above the water.

[Jenn Reese] 1. The freedom of being able to swim far and fast whenever she wanted.

2. Fighting lessons with her brother.

3. Her sister Daphine.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Jenn Reese] I’m inspired by so many things — art, music, movies and TV shows, other cultures, martial arts, and books, to name a few — but today I’ll single out Dungeons & Dragons. I taught myself to play when I was 12, and that game engendered a deep love of world-building, adventure, and sense of wonder. Before I decided to write stories and novels, I wrote stories about my characters, descriptions of new races, and histories of magical artifacts. I can’t even begin to describe the profound impact it had on me, and that it continues to have.

[Manga Maniac Café]  What three things do you need in order to write?

[Jenn Reese] I try to keep my writing needs minimal: either a Moleskine notebook and a good pen, or a computer and a power source. Earbuds or headphones for blocking out distractions. Coffee if it’s morning, water if it’s not.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Jenn Reese] I actually became a reader because I couldn’t read well and was placed in a special program to help me catch up to my classmates. The program worked so well that I ended up returning to class as one of the strongest readers…and my life-long devouring of books began. I tore through Newbery books, mostly, and remember falling in love with Abel’s Island, The Cricket in Times Square, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and eventually The Westing Game. I think The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin is so brilliant that I re-read it every year.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Jenn Reese] When my schedule allows, I study martial arts. I started kenpo at the tender age of 31 and moved on to kung fu, tai chi, and traditional Chinese weapons. When I don’t have time for that, I watch too much TV, play videogames, and bug my cats.

Thanks so much for the great questions, Julie! I had a lot of fun answering them.

[Manga Maniac Café]  Thank you!


You can learn more about Jenn by visiting her website and by following her on Twitter.

You can order Above World from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below:

 

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Review: Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

 

Title: Indian Captive

Author: Lois Lenski

Publisher:  Open Road

ISBN: B006K8ZAZQ

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Mary Jemison has been captured by a Shawnee war party! How will she survive?

When twelve-year-old Mary Jemison and her family are captured by Shawnee raiders, she’s sure they’ll all be killed. Instead, Mary is separated from her siblings and traded to two Seneca sisters, who adopt her and make her one of their own. Mary misses her home, but the tribe is kind to her. She learns to plant crops, make clay pots, and sew moccasins, just as the other members do. Slowly, Mary realizes that the Indians are not the monsters she believed them to be. When Mary is given the chance to return to her world, will she want to leave the tribe that has become her family?

This Newbery Honor book is based on the true story of Mary Jemison, the pioneer known as the White Woman of the Genesee.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Lois Lenski including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s estate.

Review:

I have always been fascinated by other cultures.  Native American peoples have interested since I was a young girl, and learning about their daily lives sent me to library time and time again when I was in school.  Indian Captive made me think differently about what it would have been like to be part of their culture.  A young white girl, Mary  Jemison, nicknamed Molly, and her family were kidnapped by a Seneca raiding party when she was just twelve years old.  Separated from her parents and siblings, she is adopted by the tribe and forced to live with them.  She longs to be with her parents again, and keeps hoping to either escape or be rescued so she can be reunited with her family.  Her new Seneca family is not willing to let her go, much to Molly’s dismay.

This is a fast, compelling read that was written in 1941.  This Newberry Honor book is hard to put down, and I found Molly a likeable character.  I sympathized with her plight and was moved by her conflicted emotions.  Adopted by the Seneca to replace a clan member who had been killed by the white interlopers, Molly wants nothing more than to go back home.  She never stops searching for a way to find her way back to her father’s farm, even as she becomes accustomed to her new home.  It is Molly’s confusion that touched a chord with me.  What would it be like to be ripped away from everything you knew and loved, and thrust into a new family.  She couldn’t understand her captors’ language, she was at a loss knowing how to act, and she grieved fiercely for her family.  Molly endured so many hardships, and at such a young age, that my heart broke for her.

While the narrative at times felt a tad aged, the story of Molly’s captivity is timeless.  Lois Lenski’s fictional account of Molly’s life is engrossing and compulsively readable.   Lenski’s illustrations give life to the prose, illuminating Molly’s every day activities.  Life in 1700 America was hard work, regardless of race or culture.  There was always something that needed to be done to ensure the survival of the family or the tribe, from planting and harvesting corn to hunting, curing, and storing meat for the harsh winters.  I wouldn’t have made it through the frigid weather; living in a bark lodge with only a fur blanket and hardly any food would have quickly done me in.  No space heaters, Under Armour, or instant noodles would have pretty much sealed the deal for me – I would have expired within a week of the onset of winter.  Molly, on the other hand, lived to the ripe old age of 90, despite her hardships.

As the story unfolds, and as Molly begins to feel at home with the Seneca, she has a terrible decision to make.  Does she stay with her captors, or should she go back to live with the white people.  As her time with the Indians goes by, they gradually become more than her jailors.  Slowly, and convincingly, Molly begins to care for and love her new family.  Because the Seneca are portrayed with depth and sympathy, it’s easy to buy into Molly’s conflicted heart.  She’s not so sure where she belongs anymore, and that’s what made this read truly heart wrenching.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Interview with Sarah Prineas, Author of Winterling

Sarah Prineas writes middle-grade fantasy novels. Her recently released Winterling was a wonderful read.  She is also the author of The Magic Thief series.  Sarah dropped by the virtual offices to chat about her writing. Check out what she has to say.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Sarah Prineas] Author of the MAGIC THIEF series and WINTERLING (both from HarperCollins Childrens). Running addict, pie-shake eater, homeschooling mom, dog person.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Winterling?

[Sarah Prineas] Sure!  Winterling is about a girl named Fer (short for Jennifer) who lives in the Iowa countryside with her grandma.  She follows a cranky puck (boy who can turn into a dog or a horse) through a "Way" into a magical world where she must set right a terrible evil.  (You can watch the trailer later in this post)

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Sarah Prineas] I wanted Fer to be a wild girl, a fierce protagonist.  At the beginning of the book she uses a stick to chase off three wolves that are attacking Rook, the puck-boy, and she will always do what she thinks is right, even if it means putting herself into danger.  For the puck character I had to do a little research into traditional fairy lore.  The puck appears in Irish, Scottish, English, and Scandinavian stories.    

I just turned in the companion novel, The Summerkin, and the pucks play a much bigger role.  Pucks are always tricksters, though my pucks are their own weird little society. 

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the story?

[Sarah Prineas] The Magic Thief books were written in the first person, from the point of view of the thief-wizard Conn.  Switching from that voice to the third person storyteller was tough.  It took me a lot longer to figure Fer out.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are five things Grand-Jane would never have in her kitchen?

[Sarah Prineas] I love this question!  Grand-Jane is a witch who grows magical herbs and raises bees, and she’s a vegetarian.  So the five things:

A microwave

A meat thermometer

Non-dairy creamer

Tupperware

Store-bought tea bags

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you enjoy most about fantasy?   What prompted you to try writing your own?

[Sarah Prineas] I started writing fantasy because magic allows for so many possibilities, and also because I hope to invoke a sense of wonder in the reader.  I also love that in a fantasy novel–to paraphrase Tolkien–even the smallest person has the power to change the world. 

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Sarah Prineas] I’m a huge fan of JRR Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings. His use of language and his ability to create detailed fantasy worlds have been a big inspiration for me.  Another big influence is the director Hayao Miyazaki.  I’ve seen all of his movies, and I think Spirited Away is a creative masterpiece.  I love Miyazaki’s themes–the importance of nature, and I love that he’s got plenty of strong girl characters in his movies.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Sarah Prineas] My computer (a silver MacBook named Pip).  An idea.  That’s about it.  A cup of coffee with cream is nice to have, too.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Sarah Prineas] When I was a kid there wasn’t a whole lot of fantasy published for kid readers.  One book that was sort of fantasy was T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, which is a King Arthur story. I read and reread the Sword in the Stone section of that book, especially the sections where Merlin changes Wart into different animals to teach him how to be a good king.  Anybody who has read the Magic Thief books will know how influential those scenes were for me.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Sarah Prineas] Read, hang out with my kids and my husband, play Scrabble, go for long walks, swim/bike/run/lift, watch anime, train my dog, drink coffee, chat with my friends on Twitter and email.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!

[Sarah Prineas] Thank you! 


You can learn more about Sarah by visiting her at the following websites:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sprineas

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarah.prineas

Blog: http://sarah-prineas.com/blog/

Here is the awesome trailer for her awesomesauce book:

Winterling is available now.  You can purchase it by using the links below:

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Guest Post–The Rise of Angels in YA by S.R. Johannes

S.R. Johannes is the author of Untraceable, as well as the newly released MG novel On the Bright Side.  Shelli dropped by the  virtual offices to share why she thinks angels are so popular in fiction.

The Rise of Angels in YA by S.R. Johannes

Angels seem to be popular these days, especially in young adult. With On The Bright Side, I wanted to expand the talk of angels into tween and middle grade. Which meant it needed to be fun and interesting.

But why have angels been so important in recent years?

One – I think angels offer some a connection to religion that may not be addressed enough in fiction today. I think kids begin questioning God and the world at a very young age. And sometimes, they may have questions that they can’t voice or even understand.

Two – Good angels show us balance– with the pure white angel on one side representing the good side; while the dark angel is on the other side representing the darker side. This relates to us as humans struggling to balance the parts of us that are good with the pieces of us that may be negative or angry. I think that is why dark angels and demons have shown up in fiction lately – the dark side is a curious place to investigate. With angels – we know there is a good side so it provides comfort. I think kids struggle with balancing these 2 sides of themselves even from a young age.

Three – I also think with the difficult things our society has gone through since 911, angels have been discussed more because they can be comforting to some people. They also represent safety in the unknown.

I wanted Gabby to be an angel. But I wanted her removed from religion and everything we think angels are. So I called her a Bright and called Heaven, Cirrus. All to break through the religious perceptions. I also made Gabby human-like – she has a good side and a bad side. I think this allows kids to relate to her and understand – we all have those moments we are not proud of.

I hope On The Bright Side allows kids to step away from their religious beliefs and the idea of perfection. To look at some of the questions we all have about life and death. Also show them about balancing all those good and bad feelings or decisions that sometimes come with puberty. I want kids to realize that no one – not them, their parents or even angels are perfect. That we all make mistakes and it’s okay.

No one is perfect – not even a Bright.


Thank you! 

You can learn more about Shelli by visiting her website and by following her on Twitter.

You can purchase On The Bright Side by clicking the link below (it is only .99 for a limited time, so grab it now!)

 

 

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Teaser Tuesday–Winterling and The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie

I just finished Winterling by Sarah Prineas.  What a good book! This is MG fantasy at its best, with a very relatable protagonist, a great big evil to defeat, and a wonderful supporting cast of characters.  Heroine Fer really sealed the deal, though.  She is a caring, brave girl who refuses to let her fears stop her from doing what her heart compels her to.

“Ah.” The Lady fell silent. When she spoke the edge had left her voice. She almost sounded sad.  “Our oaths and our rules bind us together, Gwynnefar. When an oath is broken there is a price. And it is always more than the oath breaker can pay.”

 

While browsing the comments at Dear Author, I discovered The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley. The hero has Asperger’s, which immediately caught my interest.  I purchased it for my Kindle, and so far, I am finding it a hard to put down read.  Ian is proving to be a very unique character, to say the least.

 

Beth blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

“I said, you could marry me. I don’t give a damn about your fortune.”

“My lord, why on earth should you ask me to marry you?”

“Because you have beautiful eyes.”

“How do you know?" You’ve not once looked at them.”

“I know.”

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

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Review: May B by Caroline Starr Rose

 

Title: May B

Author: Caroline Starr Rose

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade

ISBN: 978-1582463933

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

I’ve known it since last night:
It’s been too long to expect them to return.
Something’s happened.

May is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May’s memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she’s determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose’s fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.

Review:

I was a bit hesitant to read May B, both because it is written in verse, which a storytelling style that I am still getting used to, and because I was afraid that I would find May’s solitary adventure too stressful.  I needn’t have worried about either concern; once I picked this book up, I literally did not put it down until I finished it.  It is a very fast read, and May’s narrative is compelling and readable.  I wanted to see what happened next, and kept telling myself that I would only read for a few more pages.  Just a few more, and I would go do the laundry.  Guess what?  This story was much more engrossing than the wash.

May has been informed that she will be helping out some neighbors on their prairie homestead until Christmas.  She doesn’t want to leave home, doesn’t want to have to stop going to school to work for strangers that she doesn’t know.  Her mother expects her to be on her best behavior, and her father tells her that everyone has to help out wherever they can.  The money that she is earning by working for the Oblingers will allow her family to purchase badly needed supplies.  These words are slim comfort to May; she’ll be a long 15 miles away away from home, and she will miss her family.

Once May is dropped off at the shabby sod hut that will be her home for the next few months, she has feelings of dread.  Mrs Oblinger is only a few years older, and the new bride hates living on the Kansas prairie.  When Mrs Oblinger impulsively leaves the homestead to go back to Ohio, her husband chases after her, leaving May alone in unfamiliar territory.  As she waits, one endless day after the next, for their return, she begins to fret.  What if they don’t come back? How will she take care of herself during the winter until her father returns for her at Christmas?

May’s powerful personality shines through in her narrative.  Even though she is terrified of being alone, she resigns herself to the dark and quiet loneliness of the plains.  She has never really been alone before, and she doesn’t enjoy it at all.  Even though she no longer has to cook and clean for the less than friendly Mrs Oblinger, as least she had companionship when her employers were with her.  Now she has to forage for herself, and defend herself against wild animals.  Winter on the prairie is brutal, and she is overwhelmed by all of the preparations that she must make to survive once the snow falls.

May is a relatable character because her fears and worries are so clearly expressed.  With her family surrounding her at home, she knows her place and what’s expected of her.  Now that she is alone, she is confused and frightened.  Luckily, May is a clever, practical girl, and she has lived on the prairie long enough to know the basics of staying alive.  As the cold weather sets in, though, she begins to fear that she will never have the chance to fulfill her dreams of finishing school, learning to read, and becoming a teacher. 

While I was reading May B, I was appalled by the adults in May’s life.  Everyone she counted on abandoned her.  Her mother, her father, and the Oblingers all left her to fend for herself.  Despite her young age and her fear, May proves how capable and brave she is just by continuing to work from one day to the next.  It would have been so easy to give in to  hopelessness and despair, but May isn’t a quitter.  She approached her survival at the Oblingers’ with the same tenacity she approached her desire to read.  She just kept on trying her best to do what needed to be done to keep herself alive.

If you are looking for an engrossing account of life on the frontier during the 1800’s, pick up this fast, compelling read.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by {Teen} Book Scene