Chicken House, February 2017
Particularly pertinent in current political climate, this fresh Middle-Grade mystery-adventure is a phenomenally fantastic read for all ages. Mace may be a bit of a conspiracy theorist, but when weird news of missing teens and strange sights at night hits close to home, even practical Preston is pulled in. Also….he is pretty sure he is partly to blame for the most recent disappearances.
Attempting to trace Alice’s steps, Preston walks the night streets of Manchester and senses a spooky truth to the recent rumors. He enlists Mace to delve deeper and the two stumble onto a pseudo-futuristic-sci-fi scene. Children are trapped in a prison prototype with dwindling supplies and absolutely no way out. The only way in, is scheduled to be permanently shut down in less than twenty-four hours.
The juvenile delinquents are not completely alone. One young lady is the daughter of a recently deceased politician, her “crime”: doubting that her father’s death was an accident. She is not going down until the guilty party pays. Two Urban Explorers snuck into the prison to help facilitate an escape and two workers who never wanted their creations to be used in this manner will fight for freedom.
The story plays out in a matter of days; the pace is very quick and quite captivating. A bit of sharp wit, an unexpected kindness keeps the book from becoming bleak. Many questions are answered, but nothing is too pat; there’s plenty to think on…..in a sneaky kind of way.
Reviewed by jv poore, February 2017.
When My Heart Was Wicked
Scholastic Press, March 2015
Lacy is clearly conflicted and completely compelling. At the tender age of sixteen, she has become so very good in spite of her tumultuous, tangled life; but, things change. The loss of a parent is heart-breaking and often life-changing. When that loss is followed by an abrupt and unwelcome custody change, the downward spiral spins out of control.
Flashbacks and memories reveal the characteristics of Lacy’s parents allowing the reader to understand Lacy’s influences. The vibes emanating from the recollections reach from the pages to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Parents are palpable presences and when Lacy thinks of her father, sunshine shoots from the pages. She is light, happy, hopeful……joyous and buoyant when considering her father and his charming hippie-chick wife, Anna.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is Lacy’s mother, Cheyenne. Her unique “teaching techniques” and willingness to spend weeks without electricity did not result in a nurturing home. Rather, she burned her daughter’s wrist for asking “too many questions”, tied her to a tree to prevent “wandering”, then completely vanished without a word, leaving a broken 13-year old girl all alone.
When My Heart Was Wicked is a captivating and quick read that bravely tackles taboo topics such as “cutting”. More than merely acknowledging the existence of a disorder that plagues so many teens, by offering an answer to the common question: “why?” On some level, problems that plague Lacy are the same, or at least similar to the challenges every teenager faces. The importance of identity is not easy to address, but Ms. Stirling demonstrates how strong will, determination and knowledge can carve a unique path, even when it seems all forces are fighting to make you march down a different road.
Reviewed by jv poore, August 2016.