Sarah Jean Horwitz’s The Dark Lord Clementine (2019) follows twelve-year-old Clementine Morcerous on a journey of self-discovery that weaves magic and melancholy into an epic tale sure to delight readers. Most of the action takes place in and around the family’s desolate castle. Clementine knows nothing about her absent mother and her father, Lord Elithor, is a cold and angry figure whose evanescent presence haunts the text. Without any siblings or friends, the young protagonist is clearly lonely and yearns for connection. Continue reading
Anne Ursu’s The Lost Girl (2019) is a haunting middle-grade novel that dabbles in the fantastic, but it is real-world drama that drives the story-line. The novel is about two twin sisters, Iris and Lark, who mirror each other physically while having distinct personalities. The twins live with their mother and father, but (as is requisite for middle-grade fiction) the father is absent. He is in London on a six-month long business trip and is only introduced in the text through Skype. The story is really about the girls’ relationship with each other and their discovery of their uniqueness through a forced separation at school. The two had always been in the same class but start the new school year with separate teachers. This does allow them to experience individual challenges while learning that they can have separate experiences and still share a deep bond. Continue reading
A series of interrelated events assemble to create a haunting tale of intergenerational salvation in Pat Cummings’ debut middle-grade novel Trace. The title character loses his loving parents in a car crash that he miraculously survives and mistakenly blames himself for causing.
Trace moves to Brooklyn to live with his aunt, Lea, an artsy and kind woman who doesn’t have much experience with children but makes up for it with compassion. Continue reading