Saturday Spotlight is a new feature where I'm showcasing some of the books I've reviewed for The Bookbag by posting reviews here for the first time. I'm trying to use it to promote books which people may have missed originally.
Thirteen year old Nell Beecham is nowhere near as cool or pretty as her glamorous sister Gwen. But when Gwen goes missing after a sweet sixteen party in the woods, and Nell realises her new friend Evan River is somehow linked to the kidnapping, it's left to the younger girl to try to save the day.
As an adventure, this is perhaps ever so slightly generic for my tastes. There's fairies (Sorry, Elven, but same difference, pretty much), unicorns which are meaner than the tales would have you believe, etc, etc. However, the thing which raises it above a lot of similar books is the character of Nell herself and the way she grows up during her quest to save her sister. From the opening chapter, in which she threatens to snap a bully's thigh bone with the Heavenly Strike kick and reveals to Evan that she's had five years of martial arts training – "My mum's a police offier. Do you think I'd get ballet lessons?", she quickly captivated me, and her dialogue throughout the book is nothing short of fantastic. (Another favourite example is her apologising to Evan for continually saying sorry; "It's like I've got very polite Tourette's.")
Many of the supporting cast of characters didn't get enough time to develop much, although I found Dru Church, Nell's motorbike-riding, fairy tale researching, grandmother, to be extremely interesting and am hoping to see more of her in future novels in this series. The tight focus on Nell herself paid off, however, and the third-person narration actually feels really fresh given the amount of paranormal teen novels at the moment which are written in the first-person.
The other refreshing thing about the book is it is an adventure, first and foremost. Yes, there's clearly romantic possibilities between Nell and Evan – depending on whether she can trust him or not – but they play second fiddle to the quest to rescue Gwen. There's also a satisfying ending which still leaves huge possibilities for future novels – I've forced myself not to read the extract from book two, 'Frost', which is contained here as I know I'll then face an anxious wait for it to come out, but am certainly looking forward to it!
Overall this is a high recommendation just on the strength of Nell herself as an excellent main character and I look forward to reading more from this talented author.