There are two distinct ways to review this novel by Blythe Woolston: as a piece of literature intended for mature and close reading audiences; or as a YA book intended for a high school student. And both would produce quite different results.
looking for something about teens are going to connect with the physics aspect of it either, but for those willing to put in the time, the connections are strong.
The novel focuses on a teen girl named Loa (although it took alot of pages before I figured out she was a girl) who is from a poor family that has experienced its share of tragedy, including the death of her younger sister. But we don’t hear too much about that. She has haunting dreams of death, but we only hear about that occasionally. She sort of has a boyfriend for a while, but once he is gone we almost never hear about that again. This novel feels as though Woolston has started several stories and not really finished any of them. This is certainly just my opinion, but the novel felt irritatingly fractured at points. There was very little flow.
I also question how many teen readers will take the time to take in and enjoy the subtlety of this novel. I question if Woolston really hit her target audience here. I can see some students really getting it, but I can see the majority of them becoming frustrated with the story and either giving up on the book, or not enjoying it.
Some people will love this book, and some will hate it. I still can't decide if it is a really great book or if it is just a failed attempt at targeting the pains that teenage girls must deal with.
Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham
This book, for me, had the potential to be excellent. A lost Boy Scout, talking animals, an endless series of adventures, and bad guys with mysteriously powerful blue swords. It all sounded good to me, maybe it would bring me back to being a kid and loving the Redwall series. But it didn't.
The story isn't bad, the action sequences are pretty good, and the mystery is alright, but none of it is great. Most of this book is distinctly average. I quite liked the ending (even though I guessed the solution to the main mystery part way through the story), and wonder if it would have been better to know the ending before the end. It could have made the story so much more than it already was. And that is the main issue that I had with Mysterly River: the possibility of greatness, but never truly achieving what it could have been.
There are definitely good parts to this book, including the cast of heroes, who are enjoyable and provide good contrasts to one another. The imagination used to create the invented world is good as well. But for a book that is supposed to be a fun adventure, it just wasn't fun enough.
This novel is definitely for a lower reading level than is The Freak Observer, as I could see kids in grades 7 and 8 liking the book. And it would be useful in finding examples of foreshadowing, as it is possible to figure out what the big surprise at the end will be.
And the Winner is...
I'm going to advance The Freak Observer. It deserves the opportunity to have someone else read it, and see what they think.