Sweetwater, Cedar Fort, Inc.
Young adult urban fantasy.
This young adult novel, though categorised as urban fantasy, is more like contemporary fiction in that the fantasy aspect is minimal and, rather than a story of magic and supernatural powers, it is primarily a study of a girl whose life has changed traumatically, and is still changing. And since the fantasy element is based on an Inca myth about the nature of life after death, the story can most correctly be described as metaphysical fiction.
Ellie’s mother was murdered six months ago. Her father looks after her well, clearly loves her dearly, but won’t talk about her mother. Her best friend has become distant. They’ve been growing apart for a while now, and the unravelling of their friendship as Ellie chooses to make her own decisions, rather than those that will satisfy her friend, makes up a large part of the first portion of the book. This dying friendship doesn’t actually have anything to do with the main plot of the story, which is Ellie’s feelings about the death of her mother and the question of who killed her and why.
The story makes a refreshing change from the usual YA fantasy offerings in both its focus on character and its unique fantasy element — the use of an object and a ritual to take you to the land of the dead to see your departed loved ones.
The most interesting part, for me, was the realm of the dead, but I felt it could have been described with more atmosphere, and the prose could have been stronger in several places. The book would also have been stronger had the main thread come in earlier. Ellie could have at least been trying to work out who could have killed her mother, but that aspect was missing during the focus on her disintegrating relationship with her friend, so much so, that it was almost like two stories about the same person.
The end, though a little unrealistic in terms of how the art world works, was good in that it affirmed the truth of all those little things that people do for each other that shows their love, and it made it clear that people are not purely good or evil but that both can live within the same person.
Overall, this is a positive book that shows people handling difficult situations in healthy ways. It also shows a very realistic development of a relationship between two teens, something that is too often over dramatised in YA fiction. There’s a lot more depth in this than in most young adult fantasy and I’m delighted to see it.
4 .5 stars.