A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay (9780763688370)
Released March 14, 2017.
In a society entirely closed off from the rest of the world by mountains and fallen stone, Jena leads the line, a string of girls who can find the fuel in the mountains that allows their village to survive the winter. The Mothers watch over the village, deciding who is in the line, setting the rules and helping birth the babies. Girls are considered far more valuable than boys, since men are forbidden to enter the mountain at all. Girls must be tiny and petite, yet strong enough to brave the demands of climbing through tight passages in the stone. As Jena begins to learn more of the control that the Mothers have placed on everyone and the larger decisions they are making with no one knowing, she starts to have doubts about everything she has ever known.
McKinlay has written a wonderfully claustrophobic book with walls of stone that limit and surround everything and then the dangers of the blind travel through darkness and stone. Even as Jena figures out what is truly happening to the village, there is suffocating attention that adds to the pressure keg of a novel. The book has a brisk pace, deliberately impacted at times by the slow treachery of journeys into the mountain. This adds to the mounting tension of the book.
Jena is a strong female protagonist, willing to ask questions about her village. She is cast as a leader and yet also someone who is separate because her family has died even as her father tried to flee. Jena was taken in by another family and yet remains somewhat separate allowing her to naturally see things that others may have overlooked or missed. As more people are risked and die, Jena must find even more heroism inside her to confront those in control.
Strong writing and a delicious tension make this book a stand out teen fantasy. Appropriate for ages 13-16.
Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.