Bones of Faerie

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner

15-year-old Liza lives in a world that recently survived a war between the human world and the world of Faerie.  Now the things in the human world have become strange, vines and trees have a taste for blood, corn and potatoes fight back when harvested.  Liza’s father has kept the entire village safe after the war, stamping out any sign of magic in the people who live there.  When Liza’s baby sister is born with the clear hair that is a sign of magic, her father takes the baby into the wild and leaves her to die.  After the baby’s death, Liza’s mother leaves the village, her death in the forest a certainty.  Now Liza is starting to notice signs of magic in herself.  She has visions in water and mirrors.  Fearing for her life and following her visions that show her mother alive, Liza flees into the wild.  She is joined by a boy from her village who has a magical secret of his own.  Liza must now learn the truth about the War and her magic for herself.

A stunning blend of apocalyptic fiction and faerie tale fantasy, this book is unique and fascinating.  The two divergent subjects work well together, blending to form a world that is strange yet familiar.  Because it is about Faerie and the real world, the book is able to talk frankly about the horrors and aftermath of all war. 

The characters are just as intriguing as the setting itself.  Liza is a contradiction both fearing magic and being able to wield it herself.  The  supporting characters have that same blend of the familiar and the surprising. 

I found this book nearly impossible to put down, caught up in Liza’s story and in the world itself.  Recommended to readers of Melissa Marr’s and Holly Black’s books.  Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Jerk, California

Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen

Sam Carter has been bullied throughout his high school days because of his tics and outbursts that come from his Tourette’s Syndrome.  Unable to control his movements, except for very short periods, Sam is shunned by his stepfather, Bill.  Bill has told Sam many stories about his neglectful real father who womanized and drank and gave Sam his disorder through his faulty genes.  Now Sam is about to graduate from high school.  He has no prospects, no college dreams, nothing to look forward to.  It all starts to change when he agrees to work for George the Coot who used to be best friends with his real father.  As Sam learns the truth about his father, he discovers the truth about himself too.

There is much to appreciate in this novel about identity, fathers, nature and nurture.  Friesen has created a protagonist who is a wonderful combination of damaged and heroic.  Sam is abused by life but unbroken.  He himself cannot see beyond his disorder, but others can show him the way.  He rises above over and over again, but doesn’t quite realize that he has done it.  Sam is a wonderful metaphor for life.

The Tourette’s Syndrome is not played up to TV talk show proportions.  It is an important and pivotal feature of the story and of Sam, but it is written honestly and plainly.  I also appreciated the thread of religion that runs through the book, becoming part of Sam’s journey as well.  It too is not overly done, just a subtle part of the quest Sam is on.

Highly recommended, this book well deserves the ALA Schneider Award which consistently awards books that are very special and worth finding.  A complex tale of self and family, this book will be enjoyed by teen readers who want deep reading without the darkness.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.